Custer County EMS

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Premium Subscriber
Dec 11, 2002
It's certainly too soon to call the coroner, but things are ailing with the
Custer County Ambulance Corps.

Formed a quarter century ago, the Ambulance Corps, like the Community
Clinic, falls under the auspices of the West Custer County Hospital
District. And while money is always a concern, the real problem is the lack
of qualified Emergency Medical Technicians to man the nearly 300 ambulance
runs made each year.

These days, there are five active EMTs who make most of the runs, though
there are 14 names on the Corps roster. It wasn't too many years ago that
the Corps had not much more than a handful of calls each month. Last year,
290 runs were made, or nearly six per week. For any volunteer (in actuality,
the EMTs do receive a small stipend) that is a huge burden.

Financially, the Ambulance Corps is holding its own, but just barely. In
2005, the ambulance service had net operating revenues of about $182,000.
Net operating expenses were $135,000. But backing out various administrative
fees of $75,000 for billing, dealing with insurance companies and Medicare
and Medicaid, and similar costs, and there was a net loss of about $28,000.

The fiscally diligent Hospital District officials have been working with the
county commissioners, as well as with the board of the Wet Mountain Fire
Protection District, to find a solution to the problems. (Throughout the
nation, ambulance services are frequently provided by fire districts.)

One possible solution would be to hire full-time professional EMTs who would
man the service around the clock. The Hospital District feels a mill levy
increase of two mills would foot the bill. (Currently, the Hospital District
has a mill levy of 4.908 mills, which generates $309,000 annually.)

Obviously, the problems associated with medical care here are but a
microcosm of this nation's embarrassing and out-of-control health care
system. But Custer County's growing population has a right to expect decent
emergency services. The flip side is, they'll have to pay for it.
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