By: Sarah Snyder
It may turn into a situation of life or death for patients in Reeves County. The Balmorhea EMS will stop its services by the end of the year because they just can't get enough volunteers. That leaves a dozen Pecos EMS workers to cover the entire county.
"When Balmorhea goes out, we will be the only EMS in Reeves County," Pecos EMS Director, Joe Tollett, said. "We're the only game in town now."
When they couldn't get enough medical personnel, Balmorhea officials had to make a tough call. They've decided to close down their EMS service and incorporate with the city of Pecos. But that leaves Pecos EMS workers the only ones to make ambulance runs across Reeves County.
"The problem we have when we take over that area is not numbers, but distance and time," Tollett said.
That distance is almost 4,000 square miles. Balmorhea is at the bottom of the county and it takes EMS workers at least 30 minutes to get there - something the director tells NewsWest 9 is life or death for anyone who's in trouble.
"If a patient is critical, a serious heart attack or something like that, it's a potentially fatal situation," Tollett said.
"There is just not enough interest," Balmorhea EMS Director, Elia Estrada, said. "For the last two or three years, we've had ECA classes and we've gotten a few students out of the classes, and they just don't stay around. It's lack of personnel and it's hard to operate on a daily basis, 24/7."
Right now, there's only five part time and seven full time emergency workers to handle it all. At Thursday night's meeting, the EMS director said the current ratio is 20,000 patients to one paramedic. Compare that to Houston with 4,000 patients to one paramedic - and the Balmorhea Mayor says that's his biggest concern for his city.
"The people who are needing to get to the doctor is mainly my concern," Balmorhea Mayor, Rosenda Galindo, said.
So here's the plan: Thursday night, the council voted to form a task force made up of hospital, city and county leaders. They'll not only try to find a solution but work on a way to raise enough cash to support emergency management hoping to keep that county-wide cost from Pecos taxpayers.
"There's a lot of times we're strained," Mayor Galindo said. "We can't get enough of them to run the EMS, so that's the main problem."
Pecos officials are also looking at putting a satellite operation in Balmorhea made up of two EMT's and an ambulance. Pecos city leaders will meet again during the next couple weeks to continue working on a solution.