Former county EMTs lodge serious complaints against Fremont County Ambulance’s management

(Jan Glassow, facing center, read her statement to the commission this morning. Ed Kuhlman and Mike Cunningham who spoke later are seen in the audience chairs. Joshua Scheer photo.)

(Lander, Wyo.) – A former Dubois area volunteer Emergency Medical Technician and several others met this afternoon with the Fremont County Commission and heavily criticized the leadership of Fremont County’s Emergency Medical Services, operators of the county ambulance system.

Jan Glassow, Ed Kuhlman and Deb Scheler brought numerous allegations of mismanagement and abuse against Ambulance Director Lauri Wempen and Dubois EMS Supervisor Todd Smith. Mike Cunningham of the Fremont County Racing Association also raised concerns he has with the Ambulance’s leadership.

Glassow spoke primarily to Dubois-specific problems, but she said that all EMTs require a nurturing environment to help them through the job where lives are constantly on the line. She accused Wempen of grabbing an EMT’s head during training once when the EMT wasn’t paying attention. She called Wempen “confrontational” and alleged that Wempen slapped a book out of her hand once. She said the volunteers are made to feel worthless, are “screamed at” and that Smith and Wempen “lead by fear and intimidation.” “They were just plain mean to us,” she said.

She called for the commission to “review the current leadership” and “carefully refill” the positions.

Scheler, a former Fremont County EMT, said she was “railroaded out of a job.” She reminded the commission that she spoke with them about similar problems a year and a half ago and said that nothing was ever done. “I never heard a word back,” she said.

Scheler said that the management is driving away “good, intelligent, hard-working, very knowledgeable” people from the department.

“There’s no where else for us to work,” she said. “Where do we go if we can’t go to Lauri and Todd.” Scheler later added, “I would give anything to go back to being an EMT.” However she said she the high turnover for EMTs is because they are “beat to death, belittled and treated like crap.”

“You all got the balls this time to step up?” Scheler asked the commission.

Glassow spoke to the challenges Dubois faces with being a rural community with about 200 EMS calls a year to the area, including Crowheart. She said the community was relying on the volunteer EMTs who have since been run off.

“We just don’t want anything bad to happen to our family, neighbors and complete strangers,” she said.

Glassow said there aren’t enough willing volunteers or employees to staff both ambulances. This becomes problematic when one ambulance is on standby for an event and emergency services are needed elsewhere.

She noted a shortage of working pagers, a “pattern in losing sensitive paperwork,” and 800 miles of gas on a personal vehicle never reimbursed to one volunteer. She recounted being told by Smith that if she wasn’t wearing a specific type of shoe when responding to a call that she was not allowed to touch a patient. Glassow said Smith “flat out told us to let them die.”

“Law enforcement has told me that they wonder if it’s safe for them to work up there any more,” Glassow said, later adding, “The elderly are starting to wonder if it’s safe to retire up there.” She also said that at times when EMS is short-staffed, law enforcement is asked drive the ambulance, which takes them away from being able to respond to other calls.

Glassow suggested having an independent audit done of past EMTs, more engagement with grade schools and closer relationships with fire departments.

She added that she has a couple petitions circulating and that after a couple days there were 129 signatures. She did not say the nature of the petitions.

Commission Chairman Doug Thompson, noting that the majority of what was being talked about relates to personnel matters, he said the commission would not respond to the accusations at this time nor did he invite any of the attending EMS staff, including Wempen, to comment. He told Glassow, who called for exit interviews, that the county does not require exit interviews but they are done at the employee’s request.

Dubois Search & Rescue Communications Officer Kuhlman noted communications issues. He said his agency has not been given permission to broadcast on EMS channels and that it has impacted cases where S&R is aiding EMS. He added the EMS personnel don’t listen to the tactical channel that S&R is allowed on.

Cunningham said in the past he’s had trouble getting commitment from the Ambulance department to provide an ambulance for stand by at the racing association’s motocross events north of Riverton. He said the association is required to have one on standby. On Sunday, he said the EMT crew had to transport a racer to the hospital with one hour left in the event and never returned. He had to cancel the rest of the races and said he had an “angry crowd” to deal with. “I had a lot of upset people.” He blamed management for the crew not returning, not the EMTs themselves.

He said he thinks he’s worked out future events with management so that an ambulance will be on scene the whole time. However, Cunningham was afraid attendance could be hurt at future events after he had cancel the end of Sunday’s.

Commissioner Stephanie Kessler asked Glassow what she thought of Wempen’s proposal to hire more, increase wages and effectively double the budget of the Ambulance department to $4 million. Glassow said she thought it was good idea but couldn’t imagine where Fremont County would find more EMTs.

The commission later in the afternoon met in a lengthy executive session to discuss personnel and litigation. It is unclear if ambulance staff concerns were discussed.

Photo of one of the petitions being circulated in the Dubois area against the leadership of the Fremont County Ambulance system. (June Bonasera photo)

Photo of one of the petitions being circulated in the Dubois area against the leadership of the Fremont County Ambulance system. (June Bonasera photo)

12 Comments

  1. John Clark

    The county should get out of the ambulance business and allow a non government entity run the service. Weld County Colorado got out of the business about a year ago and things could not be better.

  2. Niki Morrison

    Nope, I disagree. You didn't show up to work completely ready and in your uniform..you shouldn't be in charge of somebody's life. You can't take being pushed and someone demanding your best..you shouldn't be in charge of somebody's life. If you want nurturing environment..become a teacher. I am a mom, wife, sister, daughter, aunt, and a friend AND I can guarantee that I WANT THE BEST care given to my family/friends when the time comes. I will not hesitate to use Lauri Wempen, Todd Smith, and the Fremont County Ambulance Service and will not expect anything but the best that they give day in and day out. The Fremont County Ambulance Service does an excellent job with minimal recourses and lack of community support. I know that I COULD not do the job of an EMT-paid or volunteered. I have been grateful plenty of times in my life that there are a few unselfish, reliable, and caring individuals that step up to put their lives on hold so that another may live-even for just a few more minutes!

  3. Kenneth Quarles

    I completely agree with you!! Being a fire fighter/ first responder my self, Their is no one that I know that is so devoted to their job like Todd is. I trust him with my life as well as my family and friends life. He has taught me everything I know about being a first responder! He spends more time away from his family just so he can help others! Hearing these allegations against him and Lori are just plain insane!

  4. William Owens

    The people from Dubois, who have filed these complaints with the Commission, are seriously in error placing all the blame on current EMS management. There are State and (possibly Federal) mandates that MUST be followed. Some seem reluctant to follow these new regulations and no matter what they need to be responsible people and do so. I hope our Commissioners are wise enough to investigate facts not ludicrous accusations. Everyone in the County wants full coverage but most of the EMS funds come from services provided, grants and such, not monies from our County government. Lets get the real story out in the open.

  5. Todd Smith

    Thank you Bill. There has been a misreprentation of the facts and the truth.

  6. Betty L Johnson

    you tell them tg

  7. William Owens

    No sh–, Eileen wrote the post. We believe you.

  8. Ernie Over

    Friendly reminder about our Comment Guidelines: We welcome comments expressing all points of views on our posts–positive and negative–but reserve the right to remove posts that contain inappropriate language, links to items for sale, hate speech, personal attacks, threats, or are off-topic.

  9. Velma Huelle Harris

    I would trust Laurie and Todd with my life. When my father-in-law had a massive heart attack, it was Laurie and Todd that was there for him and they helped save his life. I think god everyday for them being there at that time of need. I also know how devoted both of them are and how much time they spend away from their families to help serve the people in this county. Lauri and Todd you have my support.

    away from their families. For

  10. Dana Navarre-Hiser

    Wow notice not a single emt had a support comment

  11. Deb Scheler

    it is easy to make uninformed, derogatory remarks about people when you know nothing about them or have never walked in their shoes. these folks-We- are not whiny, attention seeking children looking for coddling or nursery school treatment. they are intelligent, hardworking, capable, competent ADULT people who are tough as nails and have seen and worked in situations your nightmares are made of who are simply asking to be treated with some dignity and respect. not to be insulted, belittled and manipulated. there are MANY of us- just only a few are willing to speak up. there is a HUGE difference between watching your back in a dangerous situation and having to watch it to keep from getting stabbed in it!!! feel free to come talk to me anytime or im in the book……….

  12. Kay Caines

    I enrolled in the EMT course and loved it! Lauri and everyone were always helpful and understanding! Fremont EMS is GREAT! :-)

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