Ambulance district sparks candidates’ interest
Merger with fire departments a low priority, but combination of county’s two ambulance crews being discussed
By Veronica Whitney
Daily Staff Writer
This year, there are more candidates for the Eagle County Health Service District board election than for the two board of commissioners races. Seven candidates are vying for two seats on the ambulance district’s board compared to the five announced candidates in the commissioners race.
“This is the most interest we’ve got in our board in the past 20 years,” said Lyn Morgan, general manager of the Eagle County Health Service District, also known as the Eagle County Ambulance District. “It’s nice to be popular – we might be doing something right.”
The candidates – Pamela Brandmeyer, Dr. Laurence Brooks, Mary Calise, Donald Cohen, Dr. Reginald Franciose, Thomas Gorman and Dan Smith – are vying for the seats of Dr. Kent Petrie and John Milligan, who are term-limited. The new board members’ seats will be four-year terms.
The district’s ambulances and emergency medical technicians respond to calls for help from the top of Vail Pass to Wolcott and from Camp Hale north to State Bridge. The district’s board members oversee the district’s finances and make decisions regarding services the ambulances provide.
“I’m running because I feel I have something to offer to the board,” said Calise, a retired paramedic from Edwards. Calise, a former squad leader of an ambulance service in Ohio, said she is used to the issues she would face as a board member.
“The board always will face issues of training,” she said. “As a paramedic I have dealt with training issues.”
Dan Smith, 57, of Wildridge, said he is running so Vail Mountain Rescue, of which he is a member, gets representation on the ambulance board.
“I would propose maintaining the highest quality of patient care – and to do that you have to have an organization that attracts quality people,” Smith said. “You have a very unique district here. It is financially very efficient.”
Cohen, a retired businessman who lives in Edwards, said if he is elected he would like to enter into meaningful conversations with the fire districts and the Western Eagle County Ambulance District about sharing facilities.
“I would support joint facilities even if the staff remains separate,” Cohen said. “Now is the time to change the thinking of the ambulance district that has operated very independently of other emergency services.
“Another issue I’m concerned about is: Should local tax payers pay lower rates for ambulance services?”
Brooks, 57, an emergency doctor who has lived in Vail for 27 years and was one of the founders of the ambulance service in the 1980s, said it’s important to have a doctor on the board.
“It’s important to me that the district’s service runs efficiently with emphasis on patient care,” said
Franciose, 47, a trauma doctor at the hospital in Vail said the ambulance district, like other medical systems, faces the challenge of trying to provide the highest quality of care at an effective cost.
“It’s an ongoing challenge,” he said. “Every year, the amount of money available is less while the cost goes up and the amount of patients, too. In order to provide the same level of service, you have to figure out how to do it cost effectively.”
Donna Barnes, president of the board and former longtime county coroner, spoke about the ideal makeup of the board.
“What we are looking for in the new board members is that they continue to provide the high level of service that we’ve been giving to the patients as well as being fiscally responsible,” Barnes said.
Another question on the ballot will ask voters whether board seats should remain subject to limits of two four-year terms.
“It’s important for people to get to know our role in health care,” Morgan said. “Once informed about that, it’s important to vote on the best candidates.”
Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What: Eagle County Health Service District board election. Voters must be registered in Colorado and either be a resident or a property owner in the district, which stretches from Red Cliff to Wolcott.
When: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., May 4.
Where: Ambulance District headquarters, 1055 Edwards Village Boulevard.
Dr. Laurence Brooks
Dr. Reginald Franciose