Castle Rock Hospital District asked to make ambulance subsidy request in January


By Ann Jantz,

SWEETWATER COUNTY, WYOMING (Nov. 5, 2019) — The difficulties in funding ambulance service in the county was once again highlighted Tuesday when the Sweetwater County Commission directed Castle Rock Hospital District to come back in January to ask for the second half of its ambulance subsidy.

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Commission Chairman Wally Johnson said the county has an obligation to provide ambulance service and is currently working on some solutions to the funding problem. However, he noted consolidation of Castle Rock and Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County is “a must” that would be in the best interests of the taxpayers and patients.

He said he favors dissolving the district and having Memorial Hospital take over.

Castle Rock Medical Center CEO Bailie Dockter, Board Trustee President Bob Gordon, Trustee Dan Stanton and CFO Todd Toolson approached the commissioners Tuesday to ask for the second half of its $301,000 ambulance subsidy, or $150,500. Dockter said they reviewed the district’s service — as was requested of them by the commissioners — and found some “significant efficiencies.”

Castle Rock is nearing the end of its six month agreement and Dockter said she wished to be proactive in requesting the second half of the district’s subsidy, which Castle Rock had aligned with what the county subsidized Sweetwater Medics.

She added that Memorial Hospital indicated it did not want to take over ambulance services, and the second half of the subsidy was needed to continue ambulance service.

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Johnson asked the group if they had any thoughts about where the county should be going with ambulance service. Stanton said Castle Rock “would like to be a part of what the county-wide service will be.”

The issue is the cost, he added.

Commissioner Roy Lloyd voiced concern with the escalating costs. He noted Castle Rock currently receives 3 mills; if the county also subsidizes the district for ambulance service, Lloyd’s concern is residents being taxed twice.

Commissioner Randy Wendling was more direct. He asked how Castle Rock can justify moving forward with building a new medical center and then turn around and ask taxpayers for more money to pay for ambulance service.

“I’m having a hard time with that,” he said. “It this the best way to spend taxpayer dollars?”

Dockter explained the district had to assess where it was getting the most bang for its buck — and that was in the medical center. Also, the district wants to provide “a good, safe place for our patients,” she added.

The current building has some maintenance needs and certain areas cannot be used because they are deemed unsafe, Dockter explained.

Wendling asked if Castle Rock has pursued an affiliation with Memorial Hospital. Gordon said Memorial Hospital used to send over doctors in the past, but itt became hard to serve patients when doctors would not show for appointments. Then former MHSC ceo Jerry Klein cancelled the contracts altogether, Gordon pointed out.

Wendling noted MHSC leadership has changed. Gordon said the district approached the new leadership but were told Memorial Hospital needed to get in a better position before it could consider an affiliation. Since then, Castle Rock has had no response from MHSC, according to Gordon.

“We are convinced we wouldn’t have any doctors here if we didn’t have that clinic,” Gordon said. Castle Rock is looking for equitable treatment, he added, noting the district would like to get out from underneath the ambulance service “but nobody wants to do it.”

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Wendling said at some point “people are going to have to look for other funding sources.”

Stanton said the question of whether ambulance service is an essential service needs a definitive answer. Commissioner Lauren Schoenfeld also said the county needs to know why Memorial Hospital said “no” to taking on ambulance service for the county.

Castle Rock currently pays $35,000 per month to run the ambulance service, and expenses amount to $1.8 million per year, according to Dockter.

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