From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 4, Number 20 - August 12, 2004
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Air ambulance to land

by Bill Boender

The Sublette County Rural Health Care Board met Monday at the Sublette County Commissioners room in Pinedale for its regular monthly meeting with all members present along with Dr. David Burnett and Dr. Judy Boyle.

J. D. Dryer of Davis Partnership, architects for the new clinics, presented preliminary plans and drawings to the board. Boyle asked that other members of her clinic staff be consulted about the design before giving preliminary approval. Burnett agreed that the Big Piney/Marbleton design would fit his needs, but questioned why the plan was proceeding without determining that funding is available.

Burnett stated, "You have the cart before the horse and you haven't even caught the horse yet."

Boyle expressed concern about the size of the clinic expansion and what steps would be taken to provide needed staff. Board Member Bill Barney responded to the concerns, explaining that these preliminary steps must be taken in order to develop a plan with enough detail to present to the county commissioners and to prepare grant requests to be submitted to other possible funding sources.

Dryer suggested the formation of a steering committee or advisory board composed of board members, clinic staff and community members who would be authorized to approve details of construction planning and costs or to make those recommendations to the board for approval. No action was taken, but all board members seemed to feel this would be effective.

Burnett questioned the board concerning a voucher for increased costs for malpractice insurance to cover his liability as director of the EMT Service, which he submitted June 14, 2004, in the amount of $2,163. No action was taken in June and he resubmitted the voucher in July and again no action was taken. Burnett asked who made the decision to ignore the voucher and why no action was taken to either approve or deny payment.

Pointing out that he has not yet received his signed copy of the contract, Burnett also questioned possible changes to contract wording regarding payment of these costs that had been covered under the old contract. He also pointed out that this voucher was submitted during the prior contract period in any case, and that he had been assured that the new contract differed from the old only in compensation amount.

Board members Mary Lynn Worl and Jerry Jensen objected to payment of this item, feeling that the $10,000 per month contract increase was intended to cover such items. A subsequent vote on a motion to pay Burnett was approved and a motion was also passed to pay the same item for Boyle.

The board discussed the status of air conditioning at the clinics and was told by the physicians that both clinics now have functioning systems.

Chris Darst of Access Air presented the board with information about the company he represents and its plans to establish air ambulance service in Pinedale with the capability of both helicopter and fixed-wing units. In addition to medical units, other helicopter services will be provided for seismic work, search and rescue, and other similar needs.

Darst indicated the service will be established here, but suggested they would seek financial support commitment from the energy firms working in this area as well as governmental agencies including federal, state and county entities. He suggested that the air ambulance service be dispatched through the same system that currently handles ground ambulance service, advising that Access Air would provide staffing to include pilots and certified flight nurses.

Darst indicated that basic operating costs would be around $90,000 per month which would require four to five flights a month to reach a break-even point. He will return to the next board meeting with more details and costs, with alternatives and options, for the board to consider.

After discussion of ambulances needing repair or replacement, and approving a pay increase for the board secretary, the board went into executive session to discuss personnel and land-purchase matters.

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