Letter to the Editor – Aug. 30

Dear Editor,
As I’m not a resident of the City of Sundance you may choose to ignore everything I have to say here, but I believe what I have to say may affect many of Sundance’ residents.
I read with great interest in the Sundance Times (August 16, 2018) an article asking if the city should get out of the ambulance business. Before a decision like that is made final I believe a few facts need to be clarified.
Your elected officials present a picture of the City of Sundance purchasing and maintaining a fleet of ambulances from which the hospital reaps great profits. While you own three ambulances I do know the history of two of them. I don’t know the third.
Let’s start with the most recent purchase. It is a 2004 GMC. I personally purchased this ambulance from the City of Laramie on behalf of Sundance. Don’t worry; it only cost a dollar. I can stand the loss.
The newest ambulance in the fleet is a ten year old Ford. It was purchased through a grant the State of Wyoming made. The grant paid 95 percent of the price and your local EMTs raised the remaining 5 percent of the purchase price then handed the title over to the city. (By the way, your local EMTs did the paperwork for the grant as well as raising the match money.)
The third ambulance is a 1999 Ford. I don’t know much about the circumstances surrounding that purchase, but I’ve heard they weren’t favored by the EMS providers of that era. You may want to ask folks who worked EMS back then.
The amount of grant money available to hospitals for purchase of new ambulances absolutely pales in comparison with the amount of money available for municipalities. I believe this should be of particular consideration in the decision whether to be in the ambulance business or not.
They would have you believe that maintenance costs are out of hand. I have to agree. With trucks ranging in age from ten years to 19 years they all have reached the “nickel and dime” age.
We diverge though, on the way that maintenance affects budgets. Due to the way the ambulance lease is written, the hospital was paying over 90 percent of the “true dollar” cost of maintenance when I left their employ. I can only imagine it is still the same or might be worse at this point.
Yes, you the citizens of Sundance provide a heated garage EMS vehicles share with your fire department and that is appreciated. A cold ambulance is not only uncomfortable, but has deadly effects on trauma patients. Cold medications and IV fluids cannot be relied upon to save lives as required in medical situations either.
As a resident of the county, I rest well in the knowledge that we have full Advanced Life Support capabilities available on a moment’s notice. That level of care is not shared by any other locale in the county. It is not enjoyed by residents of Weston County either. Our hospital has taken on what I believe is more than their fair share of that responsibility. I would hate to see that cut down by lack of reliable vehicles.
Our hats must be off in a big way to communities such as Moorcroft and Hulett. The largest subsidy that can ever hope to be provided to an ambulance service is borne totally by just a handful of volunteers in those communities.
That “Volunteer subsidy” is not appreciated enough and will not long be available. It is going away on a rapid and easily measured basis. Volunteer EMS and fire services are closing their doors on a daily basis throughout the nation.
In other words, we enjoy, in the Sundance area, a level of EMS care not nearly paralleled in other towns of our size, and for a price that is mostly absorbed by our local hospital. Many larger cities provide a subsidy to hospitals and even private entities for EMS.
EMS has traditionally worked at that strange intersection of Public Health, Public Safety and Health Care.  It seems some of Sundance’ leadership would like to remove Public Safety from that intersection.
You need to ask yourself: should your tax dollars be spent on life safety or on recreation? Then look at the amount of money your city spends on porta potties for a single day in August. Maybe look at how much your city spends on walking and biking pathways. I’m sure there are other areas you can think of.
Should you get out of the ambulance business? I really can’t say and I really don’t know. I just know that you need to be intellectually honest about your answer. It’s not a nostalgic trip down memory lane, but the lives of real humans in the balance.
These are just a few thoughts from an old paramedic. Thanks for your time reading this letter. The decision is yours. Please involve yourself with your city council.
Ken Maston