Tonopah ambulance service continues to struggle

The Tonopah Volunteer Ambulance Service is still in the midst of a battle to maintain its operations and provide the highly rural areas of central and northern Nye County with emergency medical transportation.

The Nye County Commission received an update on the service from Nye County Emergency Management Director Vance Payne during its Tuesday, Jan. 2 meeting. Although the service’s problems are in no way completely resolved, the outlook for the operation seemed somewhat brighter than it has in recent months.

Payne explained for commissioners that there has been a “significant amount” of activity in Tonopah in the past few weeks, including a meeting between emergency management staff on Dec. 26, 2017.

During that meeting, which Payne described as “intense”, those attending discussed the developments that had taken place with the Northern Nye County Hospital District. The district had approved a contract with Renown Health and Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority that was hoped to have a positive impact on ambulance operations in the Tonopah area.

“A component of that contract will effect Nye County ambulance in Tonopah, in particular with the community paramedic. In light of that realization, we as a group felt that we should pull out the stops, so to speak, on supporting the system in Tonopah, knowing there is a light at the end of the tunnel on part of this,” Payne stated. He emphasized that the community paramedic was a great step forward but would only provide partial relief.

With that contract in mind, Payne said he and his team decided to send emergency management training officer Matt Clayton to Tonopah to help provide necessary staffing for the volunteer ambulance service.

“In that time period, we’ve provided a certain level of encouragement to the volunteers here in the community and they know that we are serious about helping,” Payne stated.

However, he noted that the county’s emergency management assistance was only a temporary measure and could not continue in perpetuity. “They need to know, you need to know, the community needs to know, I can’t keep this up much longer,” Payne said. He stated that he would have an item placed on a future agenda to show the cost figures relating to the Nye County Emergency Management Department’s assistance in Tonopah.

“We are going to be okay for the next 30 days and we are going to watch it closely and see what happens,” Payne said. “I don’t know what the fix is going to look like but again, we are going to have to continue to seek the funding issues. And again, this is a Nye County issue, not a Tonopah issue. Tonopah is just one fifth, or not even that, of the big issue.”

The contract between the hospital district, Renown and REMSA lays out a start date of April 1 for the community paramedic but Payne remarked that date was subject to change and he was pushing for an early time period.

Nye County Commissioner Lorinda Wichman, who represents the areas served by the struggling volunteer ambulance service, stated that she had already seen advertisements seeking applicants for the community paramedic position.

In the meantime, the county is continuing its effort to partner with other response organizations in the area in the hope of bolstering the service. “Lorina Dellinger (Nye County Assistance County Manager) facilitated communication between Nye County Emergency Management and the response entities in the Tonopah area to discuss the status and progress of the situation,” Payne said. “I suspect that that is going to have a mixed level of participation.”

As an example, Payne stated that the Tonopah volunteer fire department has chosen not to participate in emergency medical transportation services for the area. However, Payne said he would continue to broach the issue with that entity regardless of its previous refusal to help.

As the item drew to a close, Wichman added a final thought for residents to keep in mind.

“Nye County provides a logistics coordinator, Vance Payne. Nye County can provide a training officer, which we have done. And Nye County can provide a conduit to grants,” Wichman stated. “Nye County does not provide volunteers. It takes volunteers that want to take care of their family, friends and their community and you cannot force volunteerism.”

For information on becoming a volunteer, contact Michael Klein at 775-764-1626 or email mklein@co.nye.nv.us or Dawn Gudmunson at 775-482-4424 or email dgudmunson@co.nye.nv.us

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes