The Emery County Commissioners called a special meeting to discuss the issues surrounding the emergency medical services department. During the past 10 months, since the department was made a stand-alone agency, it has become apparent there are some disturbing problems in the EMS.
Commissioner Gary Kofford opened the meeting stating Commissioner Jeff Horrocks, who is the commissioner over the EMS, had called for this meeting. "We have discussed several of these issues and have asked Dr. Engar to come and supply more information," said Commissioner Kofford.
Dr. Engar said, "I am here to give an update on the Green River issue. It is not an issue that has arisen due to the switch over. It would have happened anyway due to some personality conflicts. It should have been addressed earlier, but the problem remains that we still only have a certain number of EMTs in Green River. I have talked with Mayor Brady and he had talked with everyone involved in Green River. He said everyone there has agreed to put aside the personal feelings and work together."
Dr. Engar stated there are now six EMTs in Green River. He said that is barely enough to cover the shifts. He also stated there has been no positive evidence presented concerning the new situation with the stand-alone ambulance service.
"This is a great thing now. Mayor Brady wants things to stay the way they are now. The EMT team is excited to work together and move forward. The Green River problem seems to be the only focus of why to put the EMS back into the jurisdiction of the Sheriff's Office," said Dr. Engar. He presented information sheets to each of the commissioners with the statistics from around the state from counties and ambulance services similar to Emery County. Only three services in the state are under law enforcement agencies and those are much larger counties in population. If the ambulance service were to be moved back under the Sheriff's Office control, it would be the only county in the state of its size to be controlled that way. "That would be moving backwards," said Dr. Engar. "Agencies which run ambulance services should be medical agencies, people with medical training. The Sheriff's Office does not have one person on staff with medical training." Editors note: This is not a true statement as each deputy is trained as a first responder and several deputies have been EMTs in the past, but found it too difficult to run ambulance and still cover shifts at the sheriff's office
Commissioner Laurie Pitchforth, along with Commissioner Kofford reminded Dr. Engar that he should not speak for Sheriff LaMar Guymon or his staff, who were not notified of the special meeting, and that Emery County is not other counties. They said people here would make decisions for this area which are in the best interest of Emery County. Commissioner Kofford said, "This has become a big argument and we are not here to point fingers."
Commissioner Pitchforth said she would like to hear comments about the current EMS situation from more EMTs. The two EMTs who were present at the meeting said things have improved somewhat since the changeover and one of the big problems now is the number of EMTs. They said there are not enough EMTs to cover and those who are still working are stretched to the limit. The two also agreed that communication in the department is an issue.
"I am asking you to leave the ambulance service the way it is now," said Dr. Engar. "It can be run with the same amount of money now as if it were under the Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff's Office has no medically trained staff to run it. It is a bad medical decision to go back to the Sheriff's Office. Everything is run better now under Jim."
Jim Gordon, Emery County EMS supervisor said, "We are working to put this service right. We don't have everything set up as it should be yet."
Emery County training supervisor Sue Copinga said, "We are now doing EMT training every week. We are grateful for the changes that have taken place. I think the job of EMS supervisor demands a full time position."
Commissioner Kofford stated he has been approached by, and spoken with, many current EMTs in the county. "I have fielded many complaints, including bad response times and the lack of outside trainings," said Commissioner Kofford. Discussion following this statement concluded the lack of good communication in the EMS is the problem.
Copinga added, "Personalities of people in EMS are generally Type A. They are very driven people and there will always be conflicts of personalities. There will always be sandpaper situations. Sheriff Guymon is a great law enforcement person, but he does not have the medical training, or the time that is required, to give the EMS."
Commissioner Horrocks said, "I have listened to both sides. Ten months ago we decided that changes needed to be made with moving the EMS to a stand-alone agency. You have a group of EMTs who do not like change. We are trying to maximize the training with the funds we have available. There are rumors going around about a crisis with EMTs. We still have 65 EMTs and this system is working. We need to listen to our medical people. EMS runs under Dr. Engar's license and we need to listen to him. Let's not make this a political thing."
Dr. Engar continued, "In summary, I have seen no evidence of the justification to move EMS back to the Sheriff's Office. It is working this way. Maintenance and billing are working better now. I am not willing to go back to the other system. You would have to find a new medical director if you went back. I don't know of another doctor in the two county area who would allow you to operate under his license if EMS went back to the supervision of the Sheriff's Office." Editors note: Clearly Dr. Engar cannot speak for every other doctor in the two county area nor for Castleview hospital management as a whole who in the end would define which doctor's license the EMS program for Emery County would operate under should he withdraw his license.
Commissioner Kofford concluded the meeting with thanks to everyone for attending and making comments. "I appreciate everyone's time and effort," he said.
Emery County Sheriff LaMar Guymon was unable to attend the special commission meeting. When asked for comments on the special meeting he said, "I have 35 years of experience setting up and supervising the ambulance service for Emery County. During this time, many good EMTs and commissioners helped keep the ambulance service functioning. Sgt. Martin Wilson was the last medically trained person assigned by the Sheriff's Office to supervise the ambulance service, along with supervisors from Huntington, Green River, Ferron, Emery and Castle Dale.
"The ambulance service was not Sgt. Wilson's only duty. He had several other job assignments including Homeland Security and animal control to name two. When Sgt. Wilson retired, our office continued to operate the ambulance service without the aid of a medically trained supervisor. When we asked to replace Sgt. Wilson, we were ignored. It was placed on the agenda for commission meeting several times, but was removed without any explanation. Sgt. Wilson's other responsibilities were assigned to other sergeants and deputies.
"After a several months period, we were informed that the ambulance service was being taken from the Sheriff's Office supervision and placed under the county commission. This action required additional money as Sgt. Wilson was funded by the Sheriff's Office. A part-time position was created and Jimmy Gordon was hired to supervise the ambulance service for the commissioners.
"It does bother me that from the time that Martin retired and Jimmy was hired, we could not get on the agenda to discuss another employee to supervise the ambulance service. We were very much aware of the problems the ambulance service was experiencing and were working to fix them, without the help of a supervisor. We are very much aware of Green River's problem and had a plan to fix it.
"In the past when we have asked about more money to be able to devote more time to supervising the ambulance, it fell on deaf ears. Now it seems there are funds to run the ambulance service that we never had access to. They are even talking about making it a full time position, something we worked for, but were never allowed to do, and were always told the money is not there. Even without that, it functioned very well. An example would be Crandall Canyon.
"Dr. Engar keeps making the statement that no one at the Sheriff's Office has any medical training. Not true. We have 35 years of supervising the ambulance service. We have several deputies who were, or still are EMTs. All our patrol deputies are certified as first responders. One of our dispatchers was the supervisor in Ferron until the switch was made, and more than 12 of our Sheriff's Posse members are certified, working EMTs.
"It is also not true that there are no other counties running ambulance services under a sheriff's office. Sevier County recently put their ambulance service under the sheriff. Grand County's ambulance has been under the county council, and at the request of the ambulance supervisor, they are discussing putting it under the sheriff because they feel it would be a good fit.
"With all the emphasis being placed on Homeland Security and emergency service being combined, we believe you will see more counties and cities making that same move.
"We operated the ambulance service for 35 years and feel we did a competent job. We do not believe we did anything to warrant Commissioner Horrocks taking the ambulance service from under the Sheriff's Office. Some are trying to make this a conflict between our office and Jimmy Gordon. That is not the case. Our problem is who supervises the person in Jimmy Gordon's position.
"Bottom line-the ambulance needs to be where it functions best in the best interest of the county. My question would be, is the ambulance service an emergency service, or just a department?" said Sheriff Guymon.