From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 7, Number 9 - May 24, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Governor proclaims May 20-26, 2007 Emergency Medical Services Week

by Trey Wilkinson

There are a number of services that are often times overlooked or are taken for granted, as we expect them to show up when we need them most. Emergency Medical Services (EMS) could be classified as one of those services.

Gov. Dave Freudenthal has proclaimed May 20-26, 2007 EMS Week with the intent to recognize EMS providers.

Wyoming EMS has experienced a significant increase in the number of requests for services over the last past several years. Since 2000 the number of EMS responses statewide has risen from 37,000 to over 51,000 requests for EMS response in 2005, according to the latest data from the EMS Office’s annual survey and trip report data.

Sublette County EMS Supervisor Wil Gay has been with the EMS in Sublette County since 1999 and took his first EMT class in 1986.

“Fire/EMS has been a passion of mine since I was a kid,” he said. “When I moved to Sublette County in 1996, I joined the Boulder Fire Department. After two and a half years, I decided there was not enough action, so I crossed over to EMS.”

In January 2006 two individual services (Big Piney EMS and Pinedale EMS) combined to form Sublette County EMS. Gay said this took a great deal of commitment between all parties involved to share in a common goal of providing the same high level of service throughout the county under the guidance of one medical director and the same set of operational protocols.

“We now have a self-governing council made up of representatives from both ends of the county and share a common budget,” Gay said.

EMS providers are the first line of response and often the only access point to the health care delivery system for a community’s citizens and tourists. According to Gay, there are 49 total people on the Sublette County EMS staff, both volunteer and full time.

Over three-fourths of EMS providers in Wyoming are volunteers who sacrifice time from family and friends to provide this vital service to their communities.

“Some of us do this job as a profession, and there are still those that volunteer as a hobby or passion,” Gay said. “While the volunteers do get compensated to some extent, they decide when they will work and how many hours they will put in.”

Gay said there are some volunteers that put in as many hours as the full time medics, or more, and some that will do minimal amount.

“EMS is running shorthanded on full time medics currently, primarily due to the housing costs in the county,” Gay said. “Until the day comes when all the ambulances are covered 24/7 by full time medics, the volunteers will be an essential core of EMS.”

Without a hospital in the county Gay said it can be quite a learning experience traveling with the patients.

“One thing we get from not having a hospital is the quality time you get to spend with your patient on a trip to the hospital and how much you learn from them and about them,” he said. “They are just as interested in your story as you are in theirs.”

There are currently a number of projects ongoing that should help the EMS cause, including: the new Pinedale EMS facility, due to move in on June 4; the arrival of the Sand Draw Rescue ambulance, due in Sublette County around June 3; the completion of the Sand Draw ambulance facility, tentatively set for July 1; and negotiations for a new Big Piney EMS facility.

“Skills are constantly being upgraded to provide a higher level of service and care to the residents and visitors of Sublette County,” Gay said.

Public education is something that EMS uses to impact the entire county. The EMS personnel participate in community service events throughout the year, from blood draws at health fairs, to sporting event stand-bys to teaching community classes.

The recent mock car crash scenario involving the Pinedale High School student body, in which the Sublette County EMS was a part of, was done to focus on teenage alcohol use and the impact of drinking and driving. The program, called “Every Fifteen Minutes,” comes from the fact that every 15 minutes in the United States, someone is killed in an alcohol related accident.

“From the comments of community members and parents, it was a huge success,” Gay said.

According to Gay, Sublette County EMS defines their position as an essential county service.

“When someone calls 911 for medical help, they expect an ambulance to show up,” he said. “They don’t care if it is a full time medic or a volunteer medic on board, they just want help. Our goal as EMS is to not differentiate the look of a full time medic from a volunteer. We all have the same training requirements, depending on skill level and the only difference is how we are paid.”

Gay isn’t sure how long he will be with EMS.

“That will depend on the direction EMS takes within the Health Care District,” he said. “From my standpoint, we may be headed in a good direction with the relationship between EMS and the Rural Health Care District.”

From the gas fields in Big Piney, the Jonah Field and Anticline, to Bondurant and Kendal Valley, first responders (Sublette County EMS has 30 first responders) respond at their convenience and sometimes on their own time with no thought of compensation from the tax payers. Often times first responders will make a difference as to whether someone lives or dies or suffers a permanent disability.

“This is what EMS is all about,” Gay said. “Individuals, whether compensated or not, setting their personal lives aside for the good of the community they serve.”

The theme for this year’s EMS Week is: “Extraordinary People, Extraordinary Service.” The theme certainly fits the service. Take time to recognize EMS in Sublette County not only this week, but whenever you see them. After all, their extraordinary efforts could save your life.

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