Gem County Emergency Medical Services is a unique collaboration of local government entities that rely heavily on volunteer personnel to provide emergency medical care responses. The ambulance and paramedic services also currently rely entirely on fees for services and grants to operate, receiving no direct tax dollars from Gem County or Gem County Fire District # 1 that oversees its operations.
That may change in the future but a service rate increase approved by the Gem County Commission in May looks to keep the operations self-supporting for now.
The EMS facilities at 330 East Main held an open house on May 22 for the public to take a peek into the operations and some of the emergency vehicles that cooperative grants have allowed the organization to purchase. Recent grants have added vital equipment and upgrades enabling better communication and services both on call locations and during enroute transports of patients.
The open house also emphasized the cooperative relationship between EMS, Gem County Fire District #1 and with Emmett City Fire, Emmett City Police, and the Gem County Sheriff’s Office.
Rick Welch, GCFD#1 director spoke to the value of that cooperation.
“We have had a significant increase in the number of calls and when there are multiple calls at the same time it is impossible for our full-time and volunteer personnel to completely cover the need in a timely manner,” Welch said. “The very demands of moving patients due to size or limited mobility can be more than a standard dispatched team can handle. Having the backup of fire, police, and sheriff personnel makes this work.”
Fee increases approved by the Gem County Commission reflect a need to fund some services that have previously been absorbed by EMS. Most service rates were increased from two to twelve percent over the previous scale. New fees are now included for treatments rendered when no transport is involved. This has become an issue with more care being provided particularly at nursing homes or in chronic care situations where multiple trips are made to assist a patient but not transported to a hospital.
Welch points out that if all fees charged were actually paid, the increase would not be needed, nor would potential future tax support. Like most medical care entities, a significant portion of fees are never recovered by either insurance or direct payment and have to be written off as uncollectable.
Again Welch points to the team approach of emergency service providers in Gem County as the key to making the current system work. “Hopefully that will continue to be the case as the population grows and ages in Gem County,” Welch said.