SWEETWATER COUNTY — The Sweetwater County Commission approved contract extensions with Castle Rock Ambulance Service and Sweetwater Medics for ambulance services during its meeting Tuesday.
Castle Rock is in the process of taking over ambulance services in the county, however, in the meantime both Castle Rock and Sweetwater Medics are continuing to provide services for the county. Once the transition to Castle Rock providing all services in the county is complete, the contract with Sweetwater Medics will be terminated.
Castle Rock Contract
The contract approved Tuesday with Castle Rock is for $348,000 total for a year to be paid out monthly, starting July 1, 2022 and ending June 30, 2023. This contract will be ended as soon as the transition is complete, to which the county and Castle Rock will then move into a new contract that has already been approved.
In April, Castle Rock Hospital District (CRHD) Board Chair Dan Stanton said the goal is to get the projected cost of providing the services to $1 million and it was at $1.6 million during that time. Castle Rock is hopeful that the transition will be complete within six months. Additionally, until Castle Rock takes over services for the county, they will receive a $230 per call subsidy from the county.
The Commission voted 3-2 to approve this annual contract, with Commissioners Roy Lloyd and Lauren Schoenfeld voting against it. Commissioner Lloyd said his reasoning for voting against it was because the Commission was cutting Castle Rock’s request down from $700,000 to $348,000, but was not doing the same with Sweetwater Medics’ request.
Chairman Jeff Smith explained that they were going with the $348,000 funding amount because that is what Castle Rock operated with in the previous fiscal year. CRHD CEO Bailie Dockter said that since Castle Rock has been doing the transports from Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County to other hospitals, whether in Utah or elsewhere, they can make the smaller amount work. She said the profits from that help fund ambulance services.
“If we weren’t getting transports, I’d be asking for what Medics is getting,” Dockter said.
However, Commissioner Lloyd said it still didn’t seem “equaled out” between the two providers.
“It doesn’t make sense because when we go to Medics’ contract, Medics also has some income coming in that wasn’t presented the last time regarding hospital transfers so I think we could take a look at that too. It just doesn’t seem equaled out to me, but we can move forward at this point and I will possibly vote no,” Lloyd said. “I want to make it very clear I am completely for ambulance services in the community, my vote would not be no because I don’t want ambulance, I just think we’re not taking this as a realistic equal between both the agencies.”
Chairman Smith said once the transition to Castle Rock providing services for the whole county, the contract will be changed to the higher dollar amount. “The payments to Medics will stop as well so really the money will be shifted,” he said.
“There is a reason we are moving away from Sweetwater Medics, and the reason is the cost. So if Castle Rock can provide the same service for less cost, there we go,” Smith said.
Sweetwater Medics Contract
The contract with Sweetwater Medics was also approved by the Commission in a 3-2 vote. Commissioners Lloyd and Schoenfeld were again the votes against.
The contract with Sweetwater Medics is for a total of $700,792.26 over the next six months, paid out monthly. That means monthly payments will be $116,798.71. The contract will be terminated when the transition to Castle Rock is finished.
Sweetwater Medics Director Ron Gatti said the the requested funding is the same as the past contract due to having to give out “substantial raises”. He said that with the political environment, the lack of surety, and overall staffing issues that agencies all over seem to be having, it was necessary for Sweetwater Medics to give raises to employees to maintain current staffing levels.
Gatti explained Medics has had an exodus of employees and so they had to give raises to keep employees working.
Sweetwater Medics is continuing working with Castle Rock to form the new system for services.