Business as usual: EMS expects few changes with Grand Lake Fire expansion
Grand Lake’s Fire District is gearing up to offer more emergency medical services. While the move may mean big changes for the district and its staff, officials from Grand County EMS expect few changes to their ongoing operations.
“We have collaborated and worked with Grand Lake Fire for a number of years,” Ray Jennings, chief of Grand County EMS, said Tuesday. “Back in 2004 we adopted the model you see in big cities. Fire departments respond to EMS calls and paramedics go out on fire calls. Grand Lake Fire and us have co-responded to calls for 15 years now.”
Jennings said Grand County EMS was happy to continue its collaborative work with Grand Lake’s Fire District. He added that Grand County EMS will continue to serve as the primary EMS and transport service in Grand County “until Grand County’s Board of Commissioners wants to do something different.”
Jennings contextualized Grand Lake Fire’s move to expand its emergency medical service offerings as part of the traditional mutual aid services in which emergency agencies often engage. He noted that Grand County EMS and Grand Lake Fire jointly fielded two emergency medical calls early Tuesday morning.
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“Essentially when someone calls 911 that is received by Grand County dispatch,” Jennings said, explaining how the process works when two local agencies respond to the same call. “They will page Grand Lake Fire and Grand County EMS. We correspond to the incident. If they arrive first they will start providing initial care. When we arrive they hand off to us.”
Jennings said the process is fairly standard and functions no differently than emergency calls that occur on the borders between counties, such as Routt and Grand.
“All that matters is that someone gets there and provides care,” Jennings said.
Jennings noted the topic of response times on emergency calls. Jennings said Grand County EMS currently has a countywide average response time of 10 minutes, 30 seconds. According to Jennings, the department’s average response time has been reduced by nearly four minutes since the start of 2019. He added that Grand County EMS set a goal of reducing average response times for 2019.
“I am very proud of what our paramedics and EMTs are doing with that,” he said.
While Jennings sought to clarify any misconceptions regarding how Grand Lake Fire and Grand County EMS would interact and coordinate on emergency calls, one area that could be a point of contention in the future is funding.
Grand Lake Fire Chief Kevin Ratzmann previously said that he believes his department should receive additional funding if it begins providing additional emergency medical services. Ratzmann said Grand Lake Fire is seeking additional revenues from Grand County in the form of federal funds, called PILT funding.
“Our constituency has said they don’t feel it is appropriate for them to be paying twice,” Ratzmann said. “But we don’t want to hurt the rest of the county. We made an offer that they can keep that money (from mill levy tax funds) if we get money from PILT.”
Grand Lake Fire is also looking to get into the world of medical transports. The department is already fielding emergency medical calls but until it obtains an ambulance license from Grand County it cannot transport patients, either to a local emergency room or to any Front Range area hospitals. The department hopes to obtain its license from the county this summer and begin offering transport services.
According to Jennings tax funds derived from local property taxes make up roughly 30-40% of Grand County EMS’s annual budget with the rest of its expenditures being covered by payments for services and grants. Of the portion that is derived from payment for services a significant portion comes from payments for medical transports. Grand Lake Fire’s plan to begin offering transports could impact the revenue Grand County EMS receives from transports but Jennings anticipates little impact to his budget due to the limited resources he expects Grand Lake Fire to be able to field.
“In the foreseeable future I don’t see any impacts to our budget if they stay true to what they say they are going to do,” Jennings said. “As far as the mill levy goes, the citizens voted for a mill levy that provides for ambulance service throughout the county. That is what we are dedicated to doing.”
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