Guest Column: Women, youth could help solve Dolan EMS woes

The EMS system in Dolan Springs and Meadview is broken, and I don't know what to do. I do know we need volunteers if we are going to ever have an EMS system with reasonable response times.

The problem is, the same two firefighters cover the 144 square mile fire district, and the 2,200 square mile ambulance area, and you just can't wear two hats at once.

The taxpayers in the Lake Mohave Ranchos Fire District pay the firefighters to provide fire protection and emergency medical services within the fire district. Somehow the taxpayers were talked into providing ambulance service to an area 15 times the size of their fire district.

In the past, with a combination of paid and volunteer firefighter EMTs, and seven advanced life support ambulances, and four fire rescue vehicles, it was possible to cover the area.

Today in Dolan Springs the LMRFD has one part-time ambulance, available when firefighters aren't out on a fire, and a part time fire department, available when the firefighters aren't out of town on an ambulance call.

The ambulance goes as far north as Hoover Dam and transports south to Kingman, so they're gone for hours at a time.

In my opinion as a former paramedic, we need to stay at current levels and budget for volunteer EMTs to operate the ambulance. Otherwise every time there's a fire, our EMS is out of service, every time there's an EMS call, our Fire department is out of service, and how long before lawyer's get involved?

Dolan Springs and Meadview are both poor communities designated as a medically underserved areas, but if we must cover 2,200 square miles with our EMS system, then we must do our best to cover it well.

We need volunteers who can respond in a reasonable time to the area covered by the certificate of necessity, not just Dolan Springs or Meadview. They musty have the skills to assess the patient, and call for either a ground or air ambulance.

By requiring EMTs on the ambulance to be firefighters, we lose a valuable resource, women.

Most women have no interest in being a firefighter. Less than 4 percent of U.S. firefighters are women. On the other hand, the majority of the medical field is women. According to the Journal of Emergency Medicine, today women make up 50 percent of the EMS work force.

We need to work toward a community paramedicine program. Rather than waste resources transporting someone to Kingman in an ambulance with a post surgery infection, community paramedics could have changed a dressing at much less cost than the thousands of dollars an ambulance ride, and ER visit would cost.

This is new program where paramedics function more in a primary care role. It can be tailored to the area's needs, and provide much better continuity of care. The same EMT who took you to the hospital, also follows up and cares for some of your medical needs.

There is nothing for young people in Dolan Springs and Meadview. We need to offer local young people who volunteer for the CERT team, and show continued service to community, the opportunity to train as an EMT in return for two years of service. It costs $1,366 plus books to train a basic EMT.

Later, if they continue to show interest in emergency medicine, and you need to really love emergency medicine if you're going to be good, we can train them to the intermediate EMT level ($2,500) then let them proceed to the paramedic level with grants.

Once a paramedic, it only takes a Pell grant and another two semesters at MCC, and they're an RN. Not only an RN, but an experienced critical care RN paramedic with a career.

One may even go on to become a physicians assistant, or nurse practitioner, come back and start the clinic we need.

At this point I don't know what to do about consolidation. I do know without volunteers, Dolan Springs and Meadview are in trouble.