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In honor of national Emergency Medical Services Week May 20-26, take time to thank Chaffee County EMS personnel and let them know you support them and the work they do for locals and visitors every day.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, over 36 million people have received treatment from EMS professionals since 2012. In 2017 alone, Chaffee County EMS responded to more than 2,200 emergency calls. Chaffee County EMS does not exist in isolation. It is integrated with other Chaffee County services and systems intended to maintain and enhance the community’s health and safety, and also plays a significant role in the nation’s response to natural and man-made disasters. Chaffee County EMS providers respond to all kinds of emergencies and hazards and often work shoulder-to-shoulder with public safety colleagues in law enforcement and fire services. However, their primary mission is emergency medical care.

The men and women of Chaffee County EMS provide emergency medical care from Poncha Pass to Granite and Cottonwood Pass to the town of Turret, totaling approximately 1,000 square miles and 18,000 residents.

Chaffee County EMS provides advanced life support care with 16 full-time and 20 part-time critical care paramedics, paramedics, ALS intermediates and EMTs, as well as a medical physician, director and administrative assistant. These personnel are highly trained medical providers; most have extensive years of experience in pre-hospital acute care and some have backgrounds in physical therapy, nursing, medical office/records management or college faculty.

Chaffee County EMS operates two ambulance stations, one in Buena Vista and one in Poncha Springs, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Nationally, EMS providers are largely extensions of the modern hospital emergency department. They employ training, equipment and technology that is highly sophisticated and requires a significant investment in education and professional support. Critical care paramedics, paramedics and EMTs operate as an agent of the emergency department physician and integrate their care into the larger network of emergency care providers — from emergency nurses and physicians to cardiologists and stroke care specialists.

The organizational structure of EMS, as well as those who provide and finance the services, varies significantly from community to community. Chaffee County EMS is a county-operated service that relies almost entirely on fee-for-service reimbursement. This means their service must rely heavily on ever-dwindling access to healthcare dollars as they constantly strive for clinical excellence combined with effective cost containment.

Although they work closely with public safety peers, Chaffee County EMS is a separate entity proud of its healthcare-based mission focused on optimal patient care. They are often assumed to be an extension of local fire departments, hospitals or solely tax-funded, which can lead to some confusion on the part of the public. Their business model looks more like that of a doctor’s office than a fully tax-funded police or fire agency.

Emergency medical services operate at the crossroads between acute health care, public health and public safety. A combination of the principles and resources of each entity is utilized in CCEMS’ operational systems.