EMS proposal causes tension in Grand Lake
Grand Lake area citizens engaged in a lively and pointed debate Monday night as officials from Grand County government presented the community with a proposal to cease leasing ambulance staging space at the Grand Lake firehouse.
Grand County EMS Chief Ray Jennings addressed a packed room of concerned citizens during the Grand Lake Trustees workshop Monday evening. Dozens of area residents converged on town hall for the presentation by Jennings with many attendees standing or sitting on the floor because of the crowded accommodations.
Jennings laid out data and statistics for Grand County EMS, detailing average response times, staffing details and budget constraints facing EMS, but explained the proposal in context of unnecessary costs.
“What we are getting away from is paying for a physical location we are not at most of the time,” Jennings said. “We are not at the fire station most of the time because we are in constant motion.”
Jennings said the ambulance that is ostensibly stationed at Grand Lake, two days per week, is often called to other locations in the county as part of the regular ambulance shuffling process EMS must engage in as calls come in throughout the day. According to Jennings, Grand County EMS pays the Grand Lake Fire Protection District $14,000 annually for staging space at the firehouse but said the total savings is not the driving force behind the proposal.
“I am trying to show that we truly aren’t here most of the time” Jennings said. “It hasn’t really been about the $14,000. Because we are not using the physical location, why would we pay the $14,000?”
Jennings said any savings derived from the proposal would go towards the purchase of supplies and salaries.
Funding for EMS is provided by a mill levy of two mills assessed on property within the county. Additionally the department derives revenue from fees assessed on patients who call for service. Jennings said EMS’s fee collection rate for patient services is slightly under 50 percent.
Grand County EMS’s budget for 2016 listed the department’s total expenditures at $3,128,736.88. According to comments made in the meeting taxpayers in the Grand Lake area contribute roughly $250,000 to the EMS budget annually. Jennings told those in attendance that the $250,000 Grand Lake pays to the EMS budget is not enough to cover staffing costs for a full time dedicated ambulance in Grand Lake.
Jennings highlighted other statistics including call volume and said Grand Lake accounts for roughly 15.8 percent of the calls EMS fields each year.
The majority of citizens attending the meeting expressed opposition to the proposal and questioned Jennings, and Grand County Manager Lee Staab, on a number of points ranging from call response and treatment times, to patient fee collection.
Several potential solutions were raised to address citizen concerns about the proposal ranging from a Grand Lake focused volunteer EMS force, to a potential ambulance sharing arrangement between EMS and Grand Lake Fire.
At the end of the meeting, Grand County Manager Staab informed the crowd that he would go to the board of county commissioners with a recommendation not to implement the proposed change, “until we come up with a solution.”
Staab noted he anticipates the issue going before the county commissioners for formal discussion next week.
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