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Jacobs: No quick fix to ambulance issue

I recently spoke with Nye County Commissioner Lorinda Wichman about whether the county can help fund Life Guard International/Flying ICU so that it could maintain its 24/7 operation in Tonopah, including ground paramedic services.

For starters, Wichman said the county cannot currently tap the newly-formed Northern Nye County Hospital District to fund Life Guard’s paramedic services long term.

“We have to have our plan in place first, or we’re not going to have any hospital funds,” she said. “It’ll be out the window before we even know what we’re going to do with it. And we don’t even have the board of trustees on board yet …because it’s so new.”

The newly-elected hospital board is expected to begin its work in January 2017.

The hospital district is projected to generate $800,000 a year in revenue.

“We can go through that like that,” Wichman said, snapping her fingers.

“If we, the board of commissioners, start approving subsidies to Life Guard or anybody else, it diminishes that $800,000 so we’re that much further away from an emergency room,” she added. “So we have to be very careful where our priorities are.”

Life Guard said it is not abandoning Tonopah and plans to continue to offer medevac services as called upon by the volunteer ambulance services.

Wichman’s Commission District I spans a wide territory, including precincts in Tonopah, Beatty, Currant Creek, Duckwater, Gabbs, Ione, Amargosa Valley, Manhattan, Mercury, Round Mountain, Sunnyside, Tonopah, Forty Bar, Pahrump and Smoky Valley.

With Life Guard changing its staffing in Tonopah, “what’s going to happen is up to the individuals, I guess,” Wichman said, referring to potential patients.

“Any individual who decides that they need medical care immediately, it’s up to them how they handle it.”

“That was the question in that (July 27) public (workshop) meeting,” Wichman added, recalling that “they mumbled, a few murmured” in response to a question of whether the crowd wanted an ambulance service.

“They wanted an emergency room so that our volunteer EMTs can get back to work as fast as possible,” Wichman said of her view of the crowd’s opinion. “I get it. I would love to be able to do all of it.

“And I’m sure that if I came up with a viable solution and presented it to this board (county commission), every one of them would jump on it in a heartbeat,” she said. “They would support anything that we wanted to do.”

“The problem is we have this much money, and it’s going to take a little bit more than that to do this and a little bit more than that to do this too,” Wichman said, referring to funding an ambulance and a possible emergency room. “So which one do you want? You’re pulling from one pot. We’re not going to have enough if we don’t hang tough.”

At the Tonopah public workshop Wichman mentioned, only about 35 people attended.

“I’ll tell you I’m a little disappointed this is all we have,” Nye County Emergency Management Director Vance Payne said at the event. “But I’m happy I have somebody to talk to because somebody is going to be able to talk.”

Looking long term, Wichman told the crowd, “If I was queen for a day, which I’m not, we need, we absolutely have to have paid EMTs.”

“We have to have paid paramedics,” she continued. “We have to have paid staff. We have to embrace every volunteer that we could possibly get our hands on. But when you’re asking volunteers to go out and make a run that takes seven hours out of their day and they volunteered, they have to worry about feeding their families and taking care of their mortgage, as well,” Wichman said. “We have to have those paid people…”

Contact reporter David Jacobs at djacobs@tonopahtimes.com

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