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Community buy-in needed to face EMS volunteer crisis

'You’re absolutely right in that we need buy-in from the communities...'

Syringa Hospital


Syringa Hospital



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Dr. Matthew Told

— “We need to go to the towns and say, ‘we need your help,’” said Dr. Matthew Told, Syringa Hospital and Clinics. “This affects them, and we have to have their buy-in.”

Told responded to a written report from board member Jim May, Kooskia, that was discussed at the Dec. 28 trustee meeting. The “EMS Study – Summary Report” describes the difficulty in recruiting sufficient volunteers and raising funds to maintain ambulance and quick response units, among other EMS-related issues, throughout the area.

Told said he feels the communities have to be at the forefront of finding solutions.

“It cannot be totally our charge, but we can help provide education,” Told said. “I do feel this could be a tremendous opportunity for youth to get involved and invested [starting at age 16]. Then they may want to continue that service.”

Vice-chair Steve Didier, Kooskia, agreed, adding he feels educating the high schools on the needs is also important.

“You’re absolutely right in that we need buy-in from the communities, as well as our schools,” Didier said.

Director of maintenance and EMT Bill Spencer said about one-third of the current Grangeville EMT crew is older than 60.

“And not to burst your bubble, but we have done a lot of education and training to try to recruit youth and make it easier for them to serve, and have not been very fruitful,” he said.

Clinics director Michelle Schaeffer said the word needs to go out not only to the people interested in coming EMS volunteers, but also to local employers.

“We need to educate them about the benefits of working with their employees and having their employees trained in this capacity,” she said. It does take time away from work to complete emergency runs, but if more people were available, those interruptions would occur less often, she said.

Spencer agreed and said if the area’s larger employers would each make it possible and encourage a couple of employees to become EMS volunteers, it would make a “huge difference.”

Trustee Jerry Zumalt, Grangeville, said anyone who purchases property and chooses to live in the county ultimately makes a choice about what services they will have.

“It’s a flawed model to base emergency resources on volunteerism only,” he added. “Funding is definitely an issue.”

Dr. Told, Spencer and trustee Jane Carlson, Grangeville, volunteered to sit on a committee and work with May (who was unable to be at the Dec. 28 meeting) to brainstorm about ways to educate communities and help find solutions to the entire challenge emergency services are facing.

In other news, former CEO Joe Cladouhos approached the board asking for support for the Medicaid for Idaho expansion petition.

Cladouhos suggested the board could make the petition available for employees to sign.

“You may have to check with your legal counsel, but I believe you can offer a neutral place to have th petition, as it’svery important,” he said.

Cladouhos added he wasn’t “trying to convince anyone intellectually they need to vote for Medicaid expansion,” he said.

“What we need right now is to just get the signatures to get it on the ballot and let the people decide,” he stated.

In other hospital news:

  • Kristi Brooks, who manages the thrift store, has bene hired as the new Syringa Foundation director. Former director JoAnne Smith resigned last year.

  • Planning is under way for the 2018 Foundation Gala, to be held Feb. 24 at The Event Center at The Gym.

  • Marketing and community relations director Dana Greig reported the Dec. 8 senior luncheon, where Syringa employees and board members served, was a success with 137 meals served.

  • Clinics director Schaeffer said a new refrigeration unit for vaccines has been received and inoculations have been ordered.

  • The Kooskia Clinic has been selected for participation in the Statewide Healthcare Innovation Plan. The award will provide reimbursements for staff training, practice-specific coaching in patient centered medical home transformation, connectivity assistance and date collection support from the state evaluation team.

  • EMT Spencer reported Syringa has been granted level IV trauma certification with hopes of getting SEMI and STROKE certifications soon.

  • CFO Betty Watson’s report included the month’s prior charges written of as bad debt and send to collections were $68,526.


The next meeting is set for Tuesday, Jan. 23, 12:30 p.m., at the Soltman Center, and will include the annual audit with Carl Swenson, Crandall-Swenson, PLLC of Boise.



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