Grand County EMS team sees increase in calls
by Rudy Herndon
Staff Writer
Dec 05, 2013 | 1204 views | 0 0 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Grand County’s Emergency Medical Services team is already one of the busiest in the state, and in the short term, at least, EMS Director Andy Smith predicts that it will get even busier.

Although it serves a relatively small population base of about 9,325 people, the team responded last year to more than twice as many calls on a per capita basis than Spanish Fork’s ambulance service did.

“We’re actually the third or fourth busiest agency in the state [on a per capita basis],” Smith told the Grand County Council on Nov. 19. “We’re the busiest fifth-class county in the state.”

Altogether, the team handled 949 calls last year, for a per capita average of 101.8 calls per 1,000 residents. On average, a Grand County EMS ambulance was in use every 13.8 minutes during each hour of every day, according to Smith.

“We were able to help a lot of people [in 2012],” he said.

Figures from the first 10 months of 2013 were not available, but Smith estimated that year-end totals will be up by 15 to 18 calls. That upward trend is expected to continue into 2016 or 2017, although it could level off after that time, he said.

Calls from local residents, as opposed to out-of-towners, accounted for roughly 70 percent of demand last year, according to Smith. A majority of calls – about 46 percent – originated in town, while 16 percent came from backcountry areas.

Smith sees the increase in local in-town calls as a sign that the population is getting older. In other trends, Smith said he’s noticed that the traditionally slow time of year between December and February isn’t so slow anymore.

Currently, 33 paid volunteers and three full-time staffers are on hand to help out. The team includes 25 advanced emergency medical technicians (EMTs), nine basic EMTs and three EMT paramedics.

Smith said that the growing number of calls continues to be a challenge to the staff, but even so, the department ended 2012 in very good financial health.

The service originally estimated that it would have to spend $601,535 in order to operate last year. But its actual expenses for 2012 came in at more than $592,891, even as its income exceeded projections by nearly $46,780, for a total of over $746,412, Smith reported.

Thanks to that windfall, the EMS department can set aside more funding for a new facility, and to pay for upgrades to meet its current needs. However, Smith said it faces a number of budget challenges going forward.

For one thing, he expects that the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, could have a negative impact on the number of hours that his staffers work each week.

“It will affect us,” he said. “We don’t know how [just yet].”

The department also has to upgrade its technology in order to improve its billing efficiency and patient care, but those improvements are very expensive, he said.

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