AFSCME Council 18

Taos EMS Marks 30 Years with the County AFSCME Proud EMS, There When You Call!

2014 marks 30 years since Taos County took over the regions EMS services. AFSCME Local 1193 has 13 full-time EMS professionals who, along with support staff and other EMS part time crew members, remain on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

There are certain things that an emergency medical technician (EMT) cannot be trained to learn. Some skills you’re born with. The ability to walk into chaotic situations where people’s lives are on the line while remaining cool and collected, that is one.

The Taos County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workers walk into these situations everyday. AFSCME Council 18 was invited along for a ride-along earlier in 2014 when EMTs Dewey Shields and David Varela entered a house full of family members shouting information, three or four dogs as nervous as the family members, and of course the patient, an elderly family matron who needed to get to a hospital immediately.

AFSCME Taos County Local 1193 EMT’s Varela and Shields have 34 years of experience between them. They quickly stabilized and began communicating with the patient to get the vital information, reviewed the medications the patient was taking, and prepared her for transport to Taos Holy Cross Hospital thirty minutes south.
The second unique skill set every New Mexico EMS worker must have is an uncanny sense of direction. GPS mapping hasn’t cracked the New Mexico rural code yet, and Taos EMS drivers must quickly navigate the roads (and sometimes arroyos) to find the people who have called for help.

Hurrying through the tiny streets of Taos, sirens blaring and light ablaze enroute to a call “is the most dangerous part of the job,” say Shields. “You have to very, very careful of the other drivers on the road.”

On this call, everyone was lucky. The patient needed to be to the hospital quickly, but Varela and Shields stabilized her condition rolled back to the hospital with the lights off at a safe speed. That isn't always the case said Shields, “when a patient's life is at stake, we have to haul ass.”

On the trip back, Varela keeps the patient calm, and at the same time, talkative and sharing the vital information that Varela needed to protect her life. With the other half of his brain, Varela quickly sorted and read through her substantial bag of medications to determine what the immediate threats to the patient were so he could share that information with the doctor when they arrived at the hospital. Monitoring her vitals, administering an IV, and never once for a moment breaking his attentiveness to his patient’s condition.

In a quiet moment after the patient is delivered into the hands of Taos Hospital, Shields shares stories of belligerent patients who he’s had to deal with who are too drunk or drugged to realize they need urgent medical attention. “Those patients end up restrained in the back of the ambulance” says Shields.

Taos EMS Crew (L to R) Erica Parraz, David Varela, Dewey Shields

The teams of Taos EMTs holding watch all through the day and night are professional, trained, caring, and love theirjobs. Local 1193 members have strong contracts that guarantee they are paid and treated well. Together, these factors make Taos County Citizens a lucky bunch. Thanks to good contracts and benefits, Taos County retains their EMS staff over the long haul, which is essential to delivering emergency medical service that citizens can count on.

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