This week, the county commission put forth the idea that the county ambulance service should be placed under the oversight of the county emergency management coordinator / county fire chief.
Newly-hired coordinator Eric Holt made his presentation during his twice- monthly report on the Lincoln County Fire District, stating that, “What I want to do is merge the ambulance department under the fire district’s oversight.”
This merge would not involve the Pahranagat Valley Volunteer Ambulance and EMS, which operates as a separate entity, although in cooperation with the county fire district.
Holt said the ambulance association is currently separate from the Lincoln County Ambulance Service, under the direction from Grover C. Dils Hospital.
In giving his reasons for the proposal, he noted that, “The Lincoln County Ambulance Service is struggling in many areas, including volunteers, billing issues, and the level of care. We don’t have as many volunteers as we have had in the past. But it’s not just a local issue, it’s a nationwide issue. Our membership numbers are lacking, and demands on the volunteers are getting heavier. People just don’t want to get involved anymore, because the required paperwork, billing demands, and financial record-keeping, is far more than a local volunteer is interested in committing themselves to. It is very inefficient, time consuming, and frustrating for the EMTs.”
He added, “Our ambulance service revenue has dropped an estimated $124,000 since 2014. But the call volume has remained about the same, [with] 75 calls a year in Panaca (6.2 per month), for example.”
Holt also suggested Lincoln County might consider going to an outside billing company. “Nye County has done that and have seen a 60 percent increase in revenues.”
He explained that around the nation, EMS and fire departments running together have greatly improved response times, training, and safety. He noted, “Pahranagat Valley is combined and do it very effectively.”
Speaking on behalf of other EMTs, Stephanie Thornock, a long-time EMT from Panaca, expressed her own level of frustration with the current situation. She echoed Holt’s thoughts that, “We don’t have enough training for our people. I have seen very little progress in my 23 years of service. To me, it is archaic how we are running it. We have to step into the 21st century. Alamo has a great service they are running. White Pine county also.”
She said, “We have to look after our people, our family, our neighbors, and what we have now is not working. It has to be changed. Our lack of training after becoming certified is ridiculous. We often feel inadequate and don’t know who is in charge in given situations. Eric has spoken to all but two of the EMTs, and we are all on board with his proposal of moving under the fire district.”
Commissioner Jared Brackenbury moved that Holt be assigned to put together an action plan about the fire district taking over the ambulance service, not including Pahranagat Valley, and report back to the board either at the Feb.19 meeting or in March.