Declining number of volunteers/medics at root of Dubois ambulance concerns; Temporary solutions in place

By June Bonasera, Business Editor, County10.com

(Dubois, Wyo.) – Concerns regarding emergency ambulance service in the Upper Country expressed by several Dubois residents and contained in information  presented to the Mayor and Town Council last Wednesday has generated a response from Fremont County EMS director, Lauri Wempen.

Neither Wempen, nor other Fremont County Ambulance (FCA) officials had been invited to the meeting, although the issue was listed on the agenda as a topic to be discussed.

IMG_5998In a telephone interview with County10.com news on Friday, and in a followup letter, Wempen acknowledged that the county ambulance system had “been very much aware of the declining numbers in volunteers/part-time medics in the Dubois area.” Wempen said the decline in numbers “is in no way an issue with the medics.  Rather, it’s being torn between leaving your job/career to help your neighbor and maintaining your commitments to employers and family.” Wempen noted that  Dubois has always had a very special group of people who have been dedicated to their community.  “Unfortunately, some of us have gotten a little older, relocated for jobs or for whatever the reason had to step back,” she said.

Recognizing the problem, Wempen said the ambulance service has been proactive in trying to resolve the situation.

“FCA has been active in trying to recruit future medics who have roots in the Dubois community. Until new recruitment is found, FCA has made the commitment to assign medics from either the Riverton or Lander division to come and staff the ambulance in addition to the local providers.  We are coordinating with Brian Hutchins and Harold Albright (as they are our most active members) as to any anticipated gaps in service,” she said.

Wempen said the aforementioned is only a temporary solution to a need for a more permanent solution with more volunteers, or it may include the addition of a full-time crew (2 members) to ensure that the first call ambulance is staffed. “The local medics and future medics should/could continue to assist with the second ambulance (this unit is for instances where a second ambulance maybe be needed for a separate incident or multiple patients involved).”

“The need for additional assistance is and will be addressed in the coming year’s budget,” Wempen said.

Dubois has two ambulances available to the community. Volunteer Staff available dictates whether or not the second ambulance is able to respond for any additional calls for service.  Future solutions will take into consideration the future recruitment of volunteers and available funding source from the Board of Commissioners.

In addition, to reduce turnaround time, the FCA is having either a Riverton or Lander ambulance rendezvous with the Dubois ambulance, usually at Crowheart, so that a patient handoff can be made and the Dubois Ambulance can return to service.  If the call is such that moving the patient en route may cause further harm, Wempen said the Riverton or Lander Division will post at the Dubois station.

The FCA is utilizing two flight services (Guardian or Classic) to assist with patients that benefit from a much faster transport and the ability to transport to specialized health care, she said.

At Wednesday’s town council meeting, it was agreed that Brian Hutchins, Captain of the Dubois Division, Todd Smith, Division Supervisor Fremont County Emergency Services, Wempen, and Fremont County Commissioner Larry Allen would be invited to the next Dubois Town Council Meeting to discuss emergency ambulance service.

Wempen said she looks forward to the opportunity. “I appreciate the community’s concerns and look forward to working with the citizens of Dubois in finding a permanent solution.  One of EMS downside nationally and locally is that we have a tendency to just fix the problem without much public awareness,” she said. ” I welcome the assistance from the community to help me address this issue with our county commissioners.  They have been very supportive of our program and will be looking to them for continued support.”

4 Comments

  1. Jimmy Porter

    I have had reason to use the Dubois ambulance service for a non-transport reason. I met Harold Albright and got better service than most doctors I have been to. I also got to meet an old friend that I did not recognize, thank you Harold. You brought back memories. Most of Dubois is getting old, and a lot of us are not of the best income. The thought of having to take an ambulance to Riverton or Lander is more frightening than being sick, and heaven for bid I look out the window of a helicopter and see clouds. I would just die, so sure., if I am not already.

    So many times I have experienced people being taken to hospitals when they needed Davis more. Maybe we should contact Davis to see if they might be interested in providing emergency service. Most people would die, would they not? Every time I get sick, I pretend I am on the Old Oregon Trail with nothing. Just lay down and die, or figure what you must do to make it. No bandages except your shirt, no medicine, no nothing. Just about the way it should be I guess. We live too long as it is. What good is it to reach 50 years of age and spend the remaining 50 years needing emergencies and doctors. I would take a shorter life span. Our ambulance is first class and does a good job, sorry they are not growing younger ones for ambulance service personal. Do these guys get paid for what they do? May be we should try paying a livable wage, we might get more people.

  2. Sarah Kalbach

    It would probably help the 'declining numbers in volunteers/part-time medics' if the Wyoming Dept of EMS would allow Nationally Registered Paramedics, Intermediates & Basic EMT's to serve in Wyoming instead of telling them "We don't need you or your licensure." I know there are at least a dozen of us in Fremont County who let our licensure go because Wyoming would not offer reciprocity. Many of us had upwards of 20 years experience….

  3. Jenny Kilmer

    Seriously, no reciprocity? That's just wrong!!! They need to take a serious look at this at the state level. Sarah, I can see you leading the charge for reform!

  4. Sarah Kalbach

    When I came here in 2004, I immediately approached the State for reciprocity. I had over 20 years of experience, 11 of that in high performance…not to mention rural & hospital based with a smidgen of aeromedical dispatch thrown in. I was told, not so nicely, 'we don't want you–there is no reciprocity or ability to challenge state exams–please take a basic EMT class & no you are not qualified to become a paramedic in Wyoming because there is no ALS service in your town of residence.'…..I know of another NREMT-P from New York & an NREMT-I from Muskogee OK that are in Riverton that tried the same. Both with more years than me.

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