Twenty years of saving lives |

Twenty years of saving lives

Daily Staff Report

EDWARDS – The end of 2002 marks the 20th anniversary of the formation of the Eagle County Ambulance District.

The ambulance service began as a department of the Vail Valley Medical Center in the early 1970s. There was one full-time emergency medical technician, an office in a ski closet and a “high-top” Suburban that served as the ambulance. By the late 70s, the local medical community supported advanced life support training and more full-time staff, enabling the service to become one of the first 24-hour paramedic services on the Western Slope.

The Eagle County Ambulance District was formed in 1982 in response to the growing need for ambulance and emergency medical services in eastern Eagle County. Since then, the District has responded to nearly 41,000 ambulance runs; treated and transported 26,000 patients; and performed over 3,000 patient transfers from Vail to other hospitals in the state.

“In just the past 10 years, we’ve logged over one million ambulance miles, many times in blizzards and over the two highest passes on the country’s interstate highway system,” said Morgan.

Other notable accomplishments of the District in its 20-year history include:

n Being one of the first agencies in Colorado to begin a community-wide Automatic External Defibrillator program, providing more than two dozen AED devices to various organizations in Eagle County for use during patient cardiac arrest. The District was instrumental in assisting the state in developing AED protocols.

n Being the first ambulance agency in the country to adopt an accident prevention program called Factor 1000, a software analysis program developed by NASA that uses established human performance factors in helping to identify potential areas of concern.

n Being the first ambulance agency in Colorado, and still one of only two, to become nationally certified by the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services.

n Establishing community outreach programs such as regular “community days” for senior citizens to have their blood pressure, oxygen levels, blood sugar levels and even heart rhythms checked.

n Working closely with the Vail and Beaver Creek Ski Patrols to provide the highest level of care for skiers and snowboarders.

“It takes a lot of talented people to accomplish what we have in the past 20 years, and I’m extremely proud of our current and past staffs, as well as everybody who has helped us over the years,” Morgan said.

Morgan said the District has maintained a high level of financial and business responsibility.

“Beginning in the early 1990s, we began to use modern business metrics and performance indications to track quality assurance, cost per run, number of medics per call and a host of other measurements,” said Morgan. “I’m proud to say that we have been able to successfully operate the District with only one tax increase in 20 years, and at the same time keep our average bill per run below the state average. We can confidently say that when a paramedic from the district walks through the door, the patient is going to receive the highest quality and most cost effective emergency health care possible.”

The Eagle County Ambulance District serves 550 square miles of Eagle County, from Vail Pass to McCoy and has a staff of 44 people. It is one of two ambulance services in the state of Colorado, and one of less than 100 in the nation, to receive national accreditation status from the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services (CAAS), demonstrating the District’s voluntary compliance with nationally recognized standards of excellence. The District’s call volume has doubled in the last decade, growing from 1,675 calls in 1992 to 3,200 calls in 2002.

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