Declining number of volunteers/medics at root of Dubois ambulance concerns; Temporary solutions in place

By June Bonasera, Business Editor,

(Dubois, Wyo.) – Concerns regarding emergency ambulance service in the Upper Country expressed by several Dubois residents and contained in information  presented to the Mayor and Town Council last Wednesday has generated a response from Fremont County EMS director, Lauri Wempen.

Neither Wempen, nor other Fremont County Ambulance (FCA) officials had been invited to the meeting, although the issue was listed on the agenda as a topic to be discussed.

IMG_5998In a telephone interview with news on Friday, and in a followup letter, Wempen acknowledged that the county ambulance system had “been very much aware of the declining numbers in volunteers/part-time medics in the Dubois area.” Wempen said the decline in numbers “is in no way an issue with the medics.  Rather, it’s being torn between leaving your job/career to help your neighbor and maintaining your commitments to employers and family.” Wempen noted that  Dubois has always had a very special group of people who have been dedicated to their community.  “Unfortunately, some of us have gotten a little older, relocated for jobs or for whatever the reason had to step back,” she said.

Recognizing the problem, Wempen said the ambulance service has been proactive in trying to resolve the situation.

“FCA has been active in trying to recruit future medics who have roots in the Dubois community. Until new recruitment is found, FCA has made the commitment to assign medics from either the Riverton or Lander division to come and staff the ambulance in addition to the local providers.  We are coordinating with Brian Hutchins and Harold Albright (as they are our most active members) as to any anticipated gaps in service,” she said.

Wempen said the aforementioned is only a temporary solution to a need for a more permanent solution with more volunteers, or it may include the addition of a full-time crew (2 members) to ensure that the first call ambulance is staffed. “The local medics and future medics should/could continue to assist with the second ambulance (this unit is for instances where a second ambulance maybe be needed for a separate incident or multiple patients involved).”

“The need for additional assistance is and will be addressed in the coming year’s budget,” Wempen said.

Dubois has two ambulances available to the community. Volunteer Staff available dictates whether or not the second ambulance is able to respond for any additional calls for service.  Future solutions will take into consideration the future recruitment of volunteers and available funding source from the Board of Commissioners.

In addition, to reduce turnaround time, the FCA is having either a Riverton or Lander ambulance rendezvous with the Dubois ambulance, usually at Crowheart, so that a patient handoff can be made and the Dubois Ambulance can return to service.  If the call is such that moving the patient en route may cause further harm, Wempen said the Riverton or Lander Division will post at the Dubois station.

The FCA is utilizing two flight services (Guardian or Classic) to assist with patients that benefit from a much faster transport and the ability to transport to specialized health care, she said.

At Wednesday’s town council meeting, it was agreed that Brian Hutchins, Captain of the Dubois Division, Todd Smith, Division Supervisor Fremont County Emergency Services, Wempen, and Fremont County Commissioner Larry Allen would be invited to the next Dubois Town Council Meeting to discuss emergency ambulance service.

Wempen said she looks forward to the opportunity. “I appreciate the community’s concerns and look forward to working with the citizens of Dubois in finding a permanent solution.  One of EMS downside nationally and locally is that we have a tendency to just fix the problem without much public awareness,” she said. ” I welcome the assistance from the community to help me address this issue with our county commissioners.  They have been very supportive of our program and will be looking to them for continued support.”