SWEETWATER COUNTY — During an intergovernmental meeting Monday night, elected officials expressed their agreement with Castle Rock Ambulance Service taking over for Sweetwater Medics in Rock Springs, as long as the level of service maintains the same.
Last week during the Sweetwater County Commission meeting, the Commission, Castle Rock, and Sweetwater Medics entered a verbal agreement that Castle Rock would take over providing ambulance services in Rock Springs. This decision is due to Sweetwater Medics’ struggle to provide the service under increasing costs and a need for more county subsidy.
Castle Rock Hospital District (CRHD) CEO Bailie Dockter informed the elected officials Monday night that the timeline for the transfer of business would be complete in 90 days at the earliest. More realistically, she said it would take closer to six months.
“That’s because we want to do everything right at the start,” Dockter said.
However, Dockter said Castle Rock should have an official proposal to the Commission by the end of the month. Castle Rock and Sweetwater Medics are currently working together with a Safe Tech consultant to ensure the transfer is done in the most efficient way.
“I just want to make sure that the staff is taken care of, it sounds like everybody is on the same page as far as that goes,” Sweetwater Medics Director Ron Gatti said.
The top two concerns for the Rock Springs elected officials were how the service will be funded, and what level of services will be provided.
Castle Rock currently receives a mill levy funded by Green River taxpayers. This money goes to CRHD as a whole, and ambulance services is simply an add on to the facility, as Green River Councilwoman Sherry Bushman explained.
“In the future, those services, as Bailie has mentioned before, will be expanded like extended hours, maybe new staffing, and some other things might come down the pipe,” Bushman said.
Rock Springs Councilor Tim Robinson wondered if Rock Springs needed to have its own mill levy. Additionally, Rock Springs Fire Chief asked if the boundaries of Castle Rock Hospital District should be expanded, and if there should be a county-wide mill levy.
“It makes sense to just expand the boundaries of Castle Rock Hospital District,” Chief Wamsley said.
Commission Chairman Randy “Doc” Wendling explained that those decisions will have to be addressed, but that as of now he is viewing this transfer of business as a short-term solution, which could last three to five years. In the meantime, Wendling said the ambulance committee will continue looking for long-term solutions.
Commissioner Jeff Smith added that he asked Dockter to put together how much it will cost to provide the service without any supplement, and then decide how much subsidy they will need after mill levy collections.
Councilor Robinson said he knows costs are not known yet, but his major concern is figuring out who will be funding what to provide these services.
Level of Services
Rock Springs Mayor Tim Kaumo said he had some concerns regarding the level of services being provided, as the contract with Sweetwater Medics was changed last week to allow Basic Life Support (BLS), rather than strictly Advanced Life Support (ALS).
BSL units have two emergency medical technicians (EMT), whereas ALS units have a paramedic in the ambulance as well.
Chairman Wendling explained that the change was made so there would be an option for crews to staff ambulances with less than four EMTs at a time. It serves as an option to allow for flexibility, rather than a downgrade in the level of service.
“That was put in there as an option so that the crews would not have to have four ALS in a cab,” Wendling said. “It could be two ALS, it could be one.”
The change was made due to costs and loss of staff. Gatti explained that despite the change in the contract, Sweetwater Medics always provides ALS, and he was sure Castle Rock will too.
“That’s our standard of care,” Gatti said.
Dockter said Castle Rock and Sweetwater Medics have the same licensure, which is ALS, and that the only difference in staffing is Sweetwater Medics has three full-time paramedics ,while Castle Rock currently has two. She said Castle Rock will do its best to provide the level of care that all the communities need.
“I recognize fully that we’re the smaller service in the community, but you know we have been doing this for 40 years relatively successfully. And we’re one of the larger services in the state,” Dockter said.
Superior Mayor Dominic West said he was on board with the transition as long as Superior continues to have services. Additionally Mayor Kaumo and Green River Mayor Pete Rust both said they were appreciative of everyone’s continued efforts toward ambulance service solutions.
Irene Richardson, Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County CEO, added that she also appreciates everyone’s work and that the hospital’s biggest priority is ensuring the safety of its patients. She said she will be meeting with Dockter to make sure certain safety and training provisions will be included in the agreement.