EMS Director advises Lander Council of reduced services, wants to form solutions committee

(Lander, Wyo.) – The Lander City Council learned on this week that if someone in town needs help from an ambulance, there is a 7 percent chance one won’t be able to respond in a timely fashion.

Fremont County EMS Director Joseph Zillmer came to the council meeting to make sure the city was aware of challenges his department is facing. He also asked the city to provide representatives to join an EMS solutions committee to help tackle the issues.

The 7 percent chance of an ambulance not being available in Lander is due to the fact that he had to reduce ambulance availability for budgetary purposes. While Lander has had two full time ambulances, 24/7 for the last few years, that has been reduced. For four days a week now, there will be one full time crew and one 14-hour crew. For the year, that cut results in about 5,000 unit hours.

Zillmer said during the reduced service days, if the Lander ambulance is on a call, a Riverton ambulance will stage in Hudson. Additionally Division Supervisor Todd Smith will also be in Lander those days, since he can provide Advanced Life Support.

“We are betting against the statistics,” Zillmer said, later adding, “The reservation will probably suffer the most.”

He explained the cuts were necessary because the Fremont County Commission instructed him to cover all costs by the department’s own revenue rather than any general fund infusion. The only general funds coming to EMS this year is $165,000 to fund a full-time ambulance in Dubois.

Zillmer advised the council of his department’s efforts to acquire grant funds, instigate the opening of a state EMS trust fund, and renegotiate its contract with Indian Health Service. If enough funds come in, Zillmer said it is a priority to return two full-time ambulances to Lander.

Fremont County Commissioner Stephanie Kessler told the council that this year has been a “wake up call” for the commission. She said the county is working to satisfy short-term needs and long-term sustainability.

Zillmer also expressed a desire to reignite first responder programs across the county. Lander Fire Administrator Nick Hudson explained why his department discontinued its program: the county upped service to two ambulances in the area and the training hours required of his men were too great given the smaller amount of calls.

Lander Police Chief Jim Carey said he appreciated Zillmer keeping his department in the loop and agreed that the reduced service is a big deal. “This will affect the mortality and morbidity of our residents,” he said. “This is life and death.”