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Western Eagle County’s ambulance district wants to expand services

EAGLE, Colorado – On Tuesday, the Eagle County commissioners cleared the way for the Western Eagle County Ambulance District to change its name and expand its authorized services.

But the county doesn’t have the final word in the matter, and before the ambulance district can proceed full tilt with an innovative Community Paramedic program, it needs to get a license from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to become a home health provider.

The district introduced the Community Paramedic concept last year. The idea is simple – take a resource that is already available in the community, link it with existing health care services and provide expanded patient care, including treatment delivered directly to patients in their homes.

The existing resource is the paramedic corps at the ambulance district who would be able to provide home-based care to patients at times when they are not involved in emergency medical treatment as part of the Community Paramedic model.

“Paramedics have the training, expertise and scope of practice to provide care services such as assessments, blood draws, wound care, diagnostic cardiac monitoring and medical administration. And they have the proven ability to take health care into the home,” said Chris Montera, chief of the ambulance district.

Montera noted that voters approved formation of the ambulance district in 1988 to provide full-time emergency medical services to the western portions of Eagle County. Prior to the district’s formation, those areas were served by a volunteer corps.

“At the time the district was formed, emergency medical service was an urgent need and growth in services and need was unknown,” said Montera. “Over the past two years, the district has made strides to partner with local health providers, the county’s public health department and the hospitals to create a unique program to serve the community in new and better ways.”

In preparation for Tuesday’s public hearing regarding the district change, the district sent out 7,000 postcard to citizens advising them about the meeting. Two residents showed up to ask about the plan – Tom and Ottalie Carlin of Eagle. Tom Carlin asked how the change fits in with the national health care debate and whether the change in name means a change in mission.

Montera responded that as the country grapples with changes in health care delivery, the Community Paramedic idea could potentially save money by treating patients outside of the very expensive emergency services arena. But, he added, that does not mean WECAD would move away from ambulance service.

“Emergency service is our No. 1 thing. Even though we are adding to our list of services, we are not changing our focus,” said Montera.

But any changes for the district are subject to state review, which includes a lengthy review process, as well as an Eagle County District Court hearing to formalize the formation of the Western Eagle County Health Services District. But before any of those actions can be formalized, the district needed its plan ratified by the county commissioners.

In a 2-0 vote, Commissioners Jon Stavney and Sara Fisher approved the plan. Commissioner Peter Runyon was absent from Tuesday’s hearing.


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