ambulance

North Fork Ambulance District

In the far-flung communities of the Western Slope, ambulance and emergency medical services are a vital lifeline for residents. In this edition of Local Motion, KVNF's Jodi Peterson interviews three experts to get an understanding of how rural ambulance districts operate and what challenges they face. She speaks with Randy Kuykendall, the director of health facilities and emergency medical services at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Butte is an old mining town, tucked away in the southwest corner of Montana with a population of about 34,000. Locals enjoy many things you can't find elsewhere — campgrounds a quick drive from downtown and gorgeous mountain ranges nearby. But in Butte, as in much of rural America, advanced medical care is absent.

People in Butte who experience serious trauma or need specialty care rely on air ambulance flights to get them the help they need.

When a fire department gets a call for medical help, most of them scramble both an ambulance and a fully staffed fire truck. But that's way more than most people need, according to Rick Lewis, chief of emergency medical services at South Metro Fire Rescue Authority in the Denver suburbs.

"It's not the prairie and the Old West anymore, where you have to be missing a limb to go to the hospital," Lewis says, "Now it's a sore throat or one day of cold or flu season sometimes, and that can be frustrating for people, I know it is."