$6 Million Wasn’t Enough for Santa Fe County

In 2006, Santa Fe County voters agreed to a tax increase to fund improved emergency medical services to outlying communities around the city of Santa Fe and throughout the county, according to Julie Ann Grimm of The Santa Fe New Mexican (911 Stretched Thin, May 20, 2008). So far, $6 million has been levied from county taxpayers and given to the county government for this purpose, but the county’s emergency needs still haven’t been met.
The county’s been having a problem with recruiting and retaining enough paramedics. If a county resident calls 911 because of a heart attack, there may not be enough county paramedics to respond. Odds are the city of Santa Fe, which has its own fire department and adequately staffed emergency response team, will have to send its own paramedic team to far off county lands, leaving the city more vulnerable to a shortage. The city and county medical employees try to work together to meet the needs of citizens.
Unfortunately, the city and county governments don’t cooperate in the same way. Santa Fe city residents (who are Santa Fe county residents as well) are helping to pay for services outside of the city, but their city government is actually contributing to the county shortage by offering more competitive wages to paramedics, leaving the county fire departments in need.
While this competition drives paramedic wages up, it almost seems that the County and City should combine rescue efforts so services do not overlay. Even better, the City and County would likely save even more up to 2/3rds of the money it spends now by privatizing some emergency medical services.