The ultimate goal of the Moffat County EMS Committee is to make a recommendation to the Moffat County Commissioners on whether they can effectively manage emergency medical services in Moffat County, or whether the initiative of the EMS tax district must go back to the voters to decide.
The EMS committee met for the third time on Thursday, March 24 to continue reviewing the data collected to better understand EMS needs and operations in Moffat County. Primary data includes financial reports and ambulance call numbers for EMS services across the county.
Memorial Regional Health did not have a finance representative present at the meeting to answer questions about the hospital’s EMS finances. The committee agreed to compile a comprehensive list of financial matters for the hospital’s chief financial officer over the next few weeks.
According to HRM financial reports, EMS services prior to 2018 were breaking even or producing a profit. Since 2019, EMS services have been running at a loss. Through this financial review, the EMS committee seeks to understand sources of revenue, subsidies, services, etc. ; and how best to manage costs to keep the ambulance service running in a positive way.
“It’s either viable or it’s not viable,” said Dan Bingham, co-chair of the EMS committee.
Revenues and operating costs for EMS services will be determining factors in the future of EMS services throughout the county and in Dinosaur. If EMS services are not viable in the county, the committee may recommend returning an EMS special tax district initiative to voters to decide how to move forward.
County commissioners are the ones who set the rates for these types of county services. For calls to 911, Moffat County costs an average of $900 per ambulance call versus the state average of $1,500 per call. Transfers between medical facilities are where EMS services get the most benefit. These transports are billed at approximately $25 per loaded mile.
Bingham contacted Gold Cross to collect ambulance call data for Dinosaur, but was unable to get a callback from the company, which is headquartered in Salt Lake City. Moffat County Commissioners have a memorandum of understanding with Gold Cross to dispatch ambulance services to Vernal, Utah for 911 calls from Dinosaur.
“The (actual) numbers will be higher than what Gold Cross can provide,” Bingham said.
Due to Dinosaur’s location, 911 calls are received by Moffat County, Rio Blanco County, or Vernal in Uintah County, Utah, depending on which cell tower the call is routed.
Instead of calling 911, some residents call local Dinosaur authorities, who call the Vernal EMS dispatcher directly. When possible, residents come to the hospital themselves to avoid long delays in answering calls. All of these factors will impact the global emergency numbers recorded by Dinosaur.
Although Vernal, a 45 minute drive from Dinosaur, is not the nearest hospital or EMS service, many local residents of Dinosaur prefer to seek treatment in Vernal as it is home to a larger hospital. Rangely District Hospital is a small hospital about 20 minutes from Dinosaur.
Bingham said the EMS committee may consider reopening the door with Rangely District Hospital in Rio Blanco County as another possible solution for EMS service in Dinosaur. In the past, Rangely provided EMS service to Dinosaur, until the entities failed to agree on a price for EMS services during contract renewal negotiations.
Finding a solution to the EMS service in Dinosaur with reduced call response times is a priority for the EMS committee. Ideally, Dinosaur would have access to a local ambulance and have a trained EMS response team made up of residents who live in Dinosaur.
The EMS committee discussed how, at one point, Memorial Regional Health gifted Dinosaur an old ambulance. One of the obstacles to having an ambulance in Dinosaur was determining a medical institution to provide medical oversight of EMS services.
Licensing for Craig, Maybell and Dinosaur with Memorial Regional Health is being overhauled. There has been talk of the state of Colorado supporting EMS licensing for all counties in Colorado. One of the benefits of having state oversight would be that billing and payments would be managed by the state. Other impacts of state licensing in the local area have yet to be determined.
Another obstacle to having an ambulance service in Dinosaur would be providing EMT training to local residents. The EMS committee plans to request time to meet with Colorado Northwestern Community College to discuss EMT training options for Dinosaur.
Nichole Becker, dinosaur representative for the EMS committee, was not present at the meeting, but said local leaders have already identified several residents who want to take EMT training. Becker and other local leaders are also working to get an EMT trainer certified so they can train all fire district volunteers in EMT response.
According to Moffat County Assessor Chuck Cobb, the Town of Dinosaur had a combined estimated land value of $1,234,003 in 2021. Those who live in the Town of Dinosaur in Tax Area 13 pay a total of $29 $479 to the county in taxes. Tax Area 12, which includes the southwest area of the county excluding the town of Dinosaur, was assessed at $2,367,054 and pays a total of $56,546 in total taxes to the county.
The combined total of taxes paid to the county from this area is $86,025. This includes all tax entities; residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural and state rated. The total amount of countywide property taxes received by the county from all tax areas is $10,191,162, so the taxes paid by Dinosaur and surrounding areas represent less than 1% of the total taxes received by the count.
Residents of Dinosaur and surrounding communities still contribute approximately $10,802 per year to mill levies from the public hospital fund that were adopted in 1988 and 1989. However, most residents of Dinosaur do not use the medical services of the Moffat County due to lack of proximity. Residents of these two tax areas contribute $69,723 to the county’s general fund.
“We’d just like to get some of our tax money back that we’ve paid for years and years and never received through the hospital district,” Dinosaur Mayor Richard Blakely said during an interview. an interview earlier this month with the Craig Press.