County considers relocating Grand Lake ambulance
November 11, 2017
The Grand County Emergency Medical Service, or EMS, is considering removing their ambulance currently housed at the Grand Lake Fire Department due to budget constraints and data suggesting a smaller percentage of calls in the area compared to the rest of the county. Despite some resistance from residents, officials expect that response times to the area won't significantly be effected.
"[Response time] was my biggest concern too when they presented this," said District 2 County Commissioner Merrit Linke. "What is the response time to the citizens of Grand Lake? The answer that I got was maybe only a minute or two longer than it is currently."
The proposal made its way into the current 2018 budget draft for the county after EMS Chief Ray Jennings suggested the measure could cut costs by around $14,000, while not significantly impacting service in the area.
Grand County EMS currently houses ambulances in Grand Lake, Granby, Kremmling and Fraser. If the budget were adopted, the Grand Lake ambulance would likely be moved to a more centralized location in Granby, according to Jennings.
Part of the issue is that EMS receives a much higher percentage of calls from the Fraser Valley than the Grand Lake area. EMS covers all 1,870 square miles in the county, and about 40 percent of their calls come from the Fraser Valley, compared to 15-17 percent from the Grand Lake area, said Jennings.
Jennings said that the current response time to Grand Lake is about 15 minutes, same as the response time to Winter Park. He cited EMS trauma guidelines, which state response times in areas with a population density greater than 12,000, such as Grand County, should be under 20 minutes.
"We're looking at population density, not by community or area of Grand County," said Jennings. "We look at is as all of Grand County because that's our entire service area. Our goal is to try and be at 20 minutes or less 90 percent of the time. We are effective at doing that."
Jennings also said that the current housing of an ambulance in Grand Lake is impractical because that ambulance often operates outside of the area regardless.
"Let's be very truthful about what's going on," he said. "The majority of the time the ambulance out of Grand Lake is not there today. And that's because it is utilized to help within the entire system.
"Just like when there's more calls in the Grand Lake area, there are more ambulances that are sent to the Grand Lake area. So it's equalized throughout the system. No ambulance is dedicated to any one district or area."
Regardless, some voiced that even a couple minutes added to response times could mean the difference between life and death for Grand Lake residents.
"Our concern is really that the population in Grand Lake is generally over 50, so it's an aging community," said Samantha Bruegger, executive director of the Grand Lake Chamber of Commerce. "An increase in response time could be the difference between life and death.
"I think they should still station an ambulance there. I think what would be fair is balancing that, if we're going to have it a majority in Granby, still have it a little in Grand Lake."
Jennings said that EMS plans to do just that. He said that the ambulance fleet moves around quite a bit throughout the year based on necessity. They'll send ambulances to different locations based on everything from weather conditions to community events to account for influxes in the population, even if the ambulance isn't permanently housed there.
Data also allows EMS to predict when different areas experience the most need during the week. For example, Jennings said the Grand Lake area's highest response days are Friday and Saturday between 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.
"We're using data to determine where we need to be during different times of the year, or during different times of the day and week," said Jennings. "So as we move forward with this, it gives us greater recognition as to say we need an ambulance here, or we need an ambulance there. Then we try to move the ambulances around in that form and fashion."
Jennings noted that while the $14,000 in savings may seem negligible, the money would be used to assure that every ambulance is staffed with a paramedic.
"Grand County EMS, as well as Grand County, is still very committed to providing the citizens of the county with the highest available service that we possibly can," said Jennings. "And to make sure that we have ambulances that service all of Grand County."