South County adamant about keeping clinic’s extra EMT

BIG PINEY – The Sublette County Rural Health Care Board agreed last week to keep a “third person” scheduled to cover emergencies at the Marbleton/ Big Piney Medical Clinic.

The RHCD board met at the Big Piney Town Hall on Tuesday, June 26, for a special meeting to carry over agenda items from its June 20 meeting, including “third person” coverage in Marbleton, the county’s revised lease for the Pinedale and Marbleton clinics and the county’s offer to sell the Pinedale clinic property for the new critical access hospital.

Chair Scott Scherbel spoke via teleconference with vice chair Laura Clark, members John Godfrey and Wendy Boman and chief financial officer Lorraine Gatzke.

The public, including Marbleton and Big Piney officials, stayed through the meeting to hear the board’s discussion on the “option for third-person coverage in the Marbleton EMS station.”

The RHCD board cut the South County clinic’s emergency hours for budget reasons.

Sublette County EMS Director Bill Kluck brought up an option – to shift the “third person” EMT at the Marbleton/ Big Piney Medical Clinic for emergencies, to the Pinedale Clinic, until the EMT is needed in Marbleton.

The third-person EMT currently covers Mondays through Fridays, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturdays at 7 a.m. to Sunday at 7 a.m. at a cost of $125,000, he said.

Kluck reported that since Feb. 1, the third person assigned to stay at the Marbleton/ Big Piney clinic was only needed once as a first responder. He suggested “sharing” the EMT with Pinedale, where the clinic is getting busy with summer traffic. That would mean the responder is in each clinic half the time, he explained.

“That third person could be left in Pinedale to help out,” he said.

He was called in to help at the Pinedale Clinic on three of the four previous weekends. The county’s second ambulance is usually sitting in Daniel “while Pinedale has people waiting. … I would like to utilize that person a little bit more.”

He could send one Pinedale EMT to Marbleton, who with that EMT would make a crew.

Clark said nothing would really change except where that third person is stationed.

“Leave things as they are,” said Boman. “What about (using) new EMTs at Sublette County Unified Fire?”

Kluck said he spoke with SCUF Chief Shad Cooper about that possibility but the fire chief said he could not allow his EMTs to drive out of the county.

“It’s also summer in Big Piney, and they don’t have an emergency room,” Boman disagreed. “This clinic wouldn’t have anyone.”

Boman said the Pinedale clinic has a much larger pool of EMTs to draw from and the

RHCD must cover the south clinic. Kluck said he would have to get into overtime pay.

“I don’t care if there have been any calls,” Boman said. “If something happens here you can say goodbye to any support you might have had here.”

Big Piney Mayor Michelle Hymas said that one time the first responder was 7 minutes ahead of an ambulance, “that person is alive now.”

“Bill agreed to doing what we asked him to do,” Clark said, adding he was asked to review the third-person scenario. “We’re not really suggesting taking anything away.”

Godfrey said, “I would accept the EMS director’s opinion that there wouldn’t be any change.”

“When would no one be here?” Clark asked Kluck.

That would happen in cases like the 25 times out of 297 calls in the past five months when the second ambulance went to Daniel to cover the county, he said. “Those times there would be no one here.”

“Thank you,” Clark told him. “We probably ought to leave it just the way it is for the summer and then reanalyze it.”

The board approved the motion to keep the staffing as is, with Godfrey abstaining.

After the vote, resident LuAnn Heydt stood told the board that South County residents’ concerns of timely responses to emergencies is leading them to reconsider leaving and that lack of reliable health-care makes it hard to attract new residents.

“We’re not talking about a business like a grocery store,” she said. “We’re talking about lives. … In Pinedale, if you don’t have an ambulance you can get in a car and drive to a clinic – $125,000 is not too much to ask after closing the ER here for $900,000.”

“This has got to be a non-issue,” she said of the board’s vote to reanalyze the situation in several months.

“All we’re asking for is one person, an upper level EMT, to be here for a 911 call – as the board said they would do. The reason I’m so passionate about this, the politics in this rural health care district, in this county, have got to stop.”

Other South County residents backed up Heydt with their own concerns, including Mayor Hymas, Big Piney councilmember Sherri Redden, Marbleton Mayor Jim Robinson and residents.

The RHCD board’s next regular meeting is July 18 in the Sublette County Commissioners Meeting Room in Pinedale

In other news:

• CFO Lorraine Gatzke researched Cerner’s medical records system for the CAH, saying it will be much more expensive than a clinic – about $5 million over 10 years. It takes about a year to transition to a different system but now, she cannot run reports because the clinics’ data is connected to its partner University of Utah.

“We’d be looking at a little over half a million for the first five years and then it goes down to about $300,000,” she said about Cerner.

She is looking into EPIC “but it is so expensive we would have to go to paper.” It would be purchased from the University of Utah “and they have to build parts of it.”

• The county’s lease refers to a board “decision” due by the county’s July 17 meeting. Some interpret that their “decision” is about the lease; others said it refers to the “decision” about buying the existing Pinedale Clinic property with the ambulance barn, helicopter landing pad, clinic and office building for $4.2 million, or 40 percent of its appraised value.

Scherbel said board attorney Doug Mason would attend the commissioners’ July 3 agenda to clarify the lease terms.

• Scherbel contacted Sletten Construction to do another “test fit” analysis for the CAH on the county’s Pinedale Clinic site – with the town’s ball-field acreage added on. He also proceeded with Geotech’s soil studies.

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