Director of EMS: "The ambulance service is a burden for everyone"
50-50 divided by guests, residents
Moab Times Independent
Neither the National Park Service nor the City of Moab have been formally asked to help fund Grand County Emergency Medical Services, but the day is probably coming.
Director Andy Smith said NPS does not pay for the emergency services that its agency offers, although approximately 40% of its calls are to tourists, many of whom are injured or suffer some form of medical illness in the Arches or Canyonlands national parks . or in transit to or from the parks. And until the Moab area became a tourism mecca attracting about two million visitors a year, there was no need to worry about such things.
"EMS, traditionally, is not supported by taxes," Smith said in an interview earlier this month. "That was also true until we got so busy we had to go full time."
Having to pay salaries and benefits to paramedics and EMTs had a negative impact on the end result of the service, since the volunteers who served the community for generations were largely eliminated. "The cost has increased exponentially," Smith said. And while emergency medical services are supposed to be self-sustaining through revenue received from billing for services, tourists have increased by $ 320,000 this year, making Grand County support it through a combination of transportation, federal payments in lieu of tax revenue, mineral lease payments, and other sources.
According to the NPS website, entry fees have yielded nearly $ 200 million to the nation's national parks in 2016 – the most recent year available – which sounds like a lot of money, but park service is losing more than $ 11 billion in maintenance needs have been deferred for years after the financial collapse of 2008. Therefore, there may be resistance in helping to keep EMS afloat.
Grand County Council vice president Curtis Wells said the city was "full of money" when he suggested funding the service, but Smith said he is not sure the city is full of money. This is not to suggest that he does not think he should help. "The idea of getting the city and the NPS to help fund us is a conversation that needs to be made. We need everyone to have the general understanding that ambulance service is a burden to everyone … I think it has to happen. "
Coming out of the busiest month of its history – 146 calls in September for an average of five a day – Grand County EMS costs have risen 17% over last year, and neither Smith nor the EMS board believe they will return down anytime soon.
In some anomaly, September responses involved 75 non-local people and 55 local calls. Usually the division is 60 to 40 years old, with more places needing help than tourists, but the figure is approaching 50-50, Smith said. More calls responded to non-local than locations in four of the first nine months of 2018, April, May, June and September, according to SGA documents.
"We can not continue at the current level," Smith said, noting that recent rains have exposed a leaky roof that caused the roof to fall into the building housing the EMS. "These are also things that need fixing," he said.