The paramedic program in Davis County is the most cost efficient in the state, Sheriff's Capt. K.D. Simpson told the county's mayors and city officials Wednesday.
But he warned that rivalries between police and fire agencies in the county could jeopardize the program.Responding to budget and other questions raised in the past few months, Simpson presented members of the Davis Council of Governments a report outlining the sheriff's department paramedic program since its inception a decade ago.
Many of the mayors and other city officials are questioning what they say are duplications of service, with ambulance crews, emergency medical technicians and paramedics, in addition to police and fire crews responding to medical calls.
Some municipal fire departments in the county are trying to expand their role in emergency medical care, looking into ambulance and more advanced first aid services.
The agencies are asking city councils for money to buy ambulances and emergency medical care equipment, in addition to funds for training. Some of that money, the chiefs say, could be obtained by cutting back the sheriff's department's countywide paramedic program, putting it into local programs instead.
But that will only worsen the service duplication problem and increase costs while not significantly contributing to better emergency medical care, warned Dr. Dennis Wyman, the county Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Council medical director.
Wyman, an emergency room physician at Bountiful's Lakeview Hospital, has been involved in the paramedic and emergency medical service program in the county for 11 years.
"We're trying to avoid duplication of services and downplay these intraservice rivalries that are cropping up," Wyman told the mayors.
Simpson explained that the paramedic service provided through the sheriff's department is unique in the West. It is the only one where deputies serve in both law enforcement and advanced emergency medical care capacities, he said.
The paramedic program was initially funded through the county's property tax levy, Simpson said, but in a 1983 special election, voters approved a 1.5 mill special levy for paramedics.
The department has never assessed the full 1.5 mills, Simpson said, the most being 1.42 mills in 1986. The highest the paramedic budget has been is $1.2 million in 1987, which included a $165,000 subsidy from the sheriff's department budget. Of that, $75,000 was not spent and eventually was returned.
For 1988, the paramedic program was budgeted at $982,603, according to Simpson. Of that, $874,063 came from the mill levy, with the rest out of the sheriff's budget. But the paramedic program spent only $832,043 that year, Simpson said.
The 1988 per capita cost of the paramedic program in Davis County was $4.50, according to Simpson's figures. That compares to a high of $70 per capita in Orem, $25.96 per capita in Logan, and $19.07 in Salt Lake City. Salt Lake County's per capita cost is $6.50 for its paramedic program, according to Simpson's figures.
"Davis County has the most cost-effective paramedic program in the state of Utah," Simpson told the mayors.