ST. GEORGE – Over 200 people showed up to the public comment portion of a hearing Monday night that will decide whether Dixie Ambulance Service remains the emergency medical service for the St. George area, or is replaced by Gold Cross Ambulance. By a show of hands, the majority of those in attendance at the hearing were in favor of Dixie Ambulance, while only between seven and eight were in support of Gold Cross.
Attorney Max Miller, the presiding officer over the hearings taking place this week, opened the public comment meeting shortly after 6 p.m.
“I’m quite overwhelmed by the public turn out,” he said. Once seats were filled, people began to line the walls.
Miller told the crowd the hearing was to determine “what is in the best public interest of the community” as far as ambulance service is concerned. He also noted the application put forth by Gold Cross is for the St. George area alone, and not the surrounding cities and areas Dixie Ambulance also services – such as Washington City, Hurricane, Ivins, Enterprise, and so forth.
How ambulance service could be affected in the outlying communities should Gold Cross be approved for St. George proper is one of many factors officials will consider when making their final decision, Miller said. The same applies to the public comment hearing – just another one of many factors to be considered in the overall recommendation to be made to the state.
From the community
As the comment period officially opened, over 50 people got up to speak. Many were either former transport patients of Dixie Ambulance, or had friends or family members who had been transported. Others were past and present employees of Dixie Ambulance, friends or family members of the owners, had worked with the ambulance service in some capacity, or were municipal and county officials. All shared a common message of support for Dixie Ambulance.
Dr. Michael Tremea, an emergency medical physician, spoke for the Southwest Emergency Physicians group and said, “We are in support of Dixie Ambulance.” Tremea said doctors deal with Dixie Ambulance on a daily basis and are impressed with their “compassionate” service and the “extra mile” its people took to ensure quality patient care.
“We don’t see a need for change,” Tremea said.
Enterprise city council member Ronald Lehm, who oversees EMT and fire department services, said his people work “hand-in-hand with Dixie Ambulance every day.” He also said the areas outside of St. George need the support of Dixie Ambulance. “These places rely on Dixie Ambulance like we do.”
He said, “If it’s not broke, then don’t fix it.”
Gail Bunker, member of the City of St. George city council, said she did not speak on behalf of the council or Washington County, but as a citizen. In the nine years she has served on the city council, she said she has never heard one complaint against Dixie Ambulance.
“We need to have the very best service and, in all honesty, we have it,” Bunker said.
Dean Cox, Washington County Administrator, said he didn’t fault Gold Cross for wanting to “cherry-pick” the “wonderful plum” that is the St. George market. However, he had past history with Dixie Ambulance, having been the county’s first emergency services director, and said he is impressed with and supports their work.
Many times, the matter of Dixie Ambulance’s response time was brought up, and each time it was mentioned, a positive reply was given.
Mac Miller, son of Mike Miller, general manager of Dixie Ambulance, said he had heard lawyers in a previous hearing say the owners of Dixie Ambulance – Mike Miller and Tony Randall – lack integrity and moral character.
“They are two of the most honest and trustworthy people,” you could ever meet, Mac Miller said.
Others spoke to the character of the owners. One woman said she was “furious” someone would attack their integrity.
Sam Hales, of St. George, said he worked with Tony Randall and got to know him very well. “He’s got the greatest integrity,” he said. “The weight of the evidence is we need to keep Dixie (Ambulance).”
Kelly Casey said he knows the Miller and Randall families and supports Dixie Ambulance. “I appreciate the service Dixie Ambulance provides to the community … I don’t think you’ll get the same service from Gold Cross,” he said.
Tony Randall said how grateful he and Dixie Ambulance are for the support: “We’re truly grateful at Dixie Ambulance for our community; our community in which we live; our community in which we serve …”
After the meeting Randall said it was hard to say how much of an impact the public support will have on the overall hearing. “It’s up in the air,” he said.
The heart of Dixie Ambulance’s business is located in St. George, Randall said. Should the state give Gold Cross the license for the area, he didn’t know how long Dixie Ambulance would survive, or just how service to the outer communities would be impacted.
As to the outpouring of public support, Kaden Randall, Tony Randall’s son, said it was “very nice and comforting.”
“(Tony Randall) always has that pager with him,” Kaden Randall said. He said that every time the pager goes off, no matter where he is, Tony Randall will rush to the scene of an accident.
Max Miller, who described his role as the judge in the case between Gold Cross and Dixie Ambulance, said the hearing will continue. When a member of the crowd asked how much impact public comment could actually have on the final recommendation to the state, Max Miller said it is only one of many factors that will be considered. Other factors include response times, financial solvency, standard of patient care and so forth.
“The decision will be made upon the law and the evidence,” the attorney, acting as judge, said.
Ed. Note: Names in the article have been corrected.
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