End of Watch for Paramedic Rick Hartley

Today, we are broken by the loss of our leader, Paramedic and EMS Director Rick Hartley.

Selfless Service. Humble Leader. Natural Educator. Unparalleled Commitment. Forward Thinking. Compassionate Caregiver.

Rick personified all those things and more. With more than 30 years experience in Emergency Medical Services, Hartley dedicated much of his adult life to furthering EMS; not only in his own hometown of Springfield, Colorado, but also across the entire state.

IMG_0869Before becoming the EMS Director for Southeast Colorado Hospital Ambulance Service in 1992, Rick volunteered as an EMT beginning in the 1980s. After taking on his leadership role, he continued advancing his knowledge and finally became a paramedic—the agency’s first. Committed to education, Rick was an excellent teacher and certified to instruct a wide variety of Emergency response classes for health professionals and the general public. For years, he has taught a CPR class and offered it free to anyone in the community. He also organized the county-wide injury prevention program for school age-children and was a champion of suicide prevention and awareness.

2013021195104854Always looking for ways to improve the community’s safety and quality of care, Hartley founded the Springfield EMS Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the local ambulance service in fundraising and education. His tireless efforts in grant writing have resulted in nearly 1.5 million dollars of funding toward acquiring state of the art supplies, purchasing new ambulances, and providing training for his community, his agency and surrounding EMS agencies. Rick also served on the State Advisory Council on Emergency Medical Services for the state of Colorado and was a member of the Southeastern Colorado Regional Emergency Trauma Advisory Council.

Hartley’s true love of EMS, though, was always in providing hands-on emergency care to those in need. While his job meant meeting people at the worst moments of their lives, Rick was always the calm in a storm. His skill and compassion left people with the knowledge that someone was fighting for them, and the feeling that somehow everything would be okay.

RickRick spent much of his off time as a mentor for youth in the community—serving as a high school track coach and athletic trainer for the Springfield Longhorns. In 2015, he was named CHSAA Class 1A Track Coach of the Year.

It is hard to imagine how we could be so deeply grieved and yet so profoundly blessed. As our hearts are in pieces, the community and our EMS/Fire family have wrapped their arms around us in this very difficult time and poured out love in a measure far greater than we know how to accept. It is overwhelming but we are so grateful for all the support and help. Words are not enough but they are all we have, so thank you. Please continue in your prayers for his family and all those so intimately affected by his passing.

So much more could be said about the man who meant so much to so many in this closely-knit community. Rick was a great mentor, teacher, friend, and paramedic—the definition of a hero—and his loss is felt more deeply than words can describe.

Paramedic Rick Hartley, EMS 13, end of watch 11/6/15. After 32 years of service, you have completed your mission. You have been a great husband, father, and friend; a compassionate leader, and a selfless servant of all. Thank you for your service and sacrifice, you are deeply missed.
May you rest in peace, friend, we have the watch.

Funeral services will be held Thursday, November 12, 2015, at 1:30 PM at the Springfield High School Track and Football Facility. Interment will be at Springfield Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, please send memorial donations to:

Rick Hartley Memorial Fund
c/o Colorado East Bank & Trust

Donations will be used to complete a project at the high school Rick wanted to achieve.

Arrangements by Dykes Funeral Home of Walsh, CO.

Southeast Colorado Hospital Ambulance Service: EMS Strong

1967-Chevy-AmbulanceIn 1969, SECH officially opened its doors and thus began the first true ambulance service in Springfield with a 1967 Chevy Suburban  converted to function as an ambulance. Frank England, an orderly at the hospital in the 1970s, recalls being part of the team that painted the ambulance and got it ready to use. He was also one of those who responded with the ambulance when a call for help came.

In the 1995 celebration of the 25th anniversary of SECH, an interview discussing the history of the ambulance service was conducted with Mary Lovell, a long-time resident of Baca County who served as a nurse aide at SECH for many years. She stated,

“When an ambulance call came in, one of the aides (usually me if I was on duty) would call a driver from a list of volunteers. I would continue to go down the list until I reached the first available driver. When the driver arrived at the hospital, we would go out to pick up our patient. We didn’t have much in the way of supplies and equipment in the ambulance. There was an oxygen tank, a blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, bandages and resuscitation bag. The nurse aides had no emergency training like today’s CPR aside from the experience they got from working in the emergency room. There wasn’t any direct radio contact with the hospital as we have today. If we needed to speak with anyone at the hospital, we called the sheriff who in turn called the hospital and relayed questions and answers.”

Lovell made history along with Frank England and a few others when they became Springfield’s first EMTs in 1976. Worth Poteet who was also employed by the hospital and took that first EMT class, assumed leadership of the ambulance service in Springfield. By 1977, Poteet and Lovell were the only EMTs still responding with SECH Ambulance Service, and the need to recruit more help became quickly evident as they were “on call” for emergencies 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

A second class was offered in 1978, taught by Dr. Antonio Manalo in Springfield. Among the 24 who took the class was Baca County resident, Dennis Ring. After responding to vehicle accidents, as a member of Otero County Sheriff’s Posse, Ring chose to become an EMT because of a desire to have the knowledge and training to “not just stand there” while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. He notes the significant changes in EMS during his time ranging from improvements in supplies such as c-collars, gurneys, monitors, and defibrillators to the dramatic changes in ambulances and the number of pre-hospital medications that can now be given. Ring proudly recalls the efforts of their team of EMTs and the community to raise money for the first new ambulance, a 1979 Ford Type III, a box type unit purchased in 1979. It was a monumental effort as they had to raise $30,000, a feat that seemed impossible to some at the time. Ring volunteered with SECH Ambulance until 2006 when he became a full-time staff member and just retired last year, retaining his certification for a period of 36 years.

Change occurred rapidly in the early years, and leadership of SECH Ambulance was not an exception. After Poteet turned it over, the role was shuffled among a few other hospital employees including RN Dottie Woodhouse and in 1991, Tom Lovell, then head of the Lab Department at SECH. It became evident that a significant amount of time needed to be devoted to the ambulance service in order to maintain a high standard of care. Having a full-time job elsewhere in the hospital made this difficult, so in 1992, the job was offered and accepted as a full-time position to Rick Hartley, former hospital board member and volunteer EMT.

Our service has seen a number of changes among our fleet of ambulances over the years as well. Hartley recalls how after trading in the 1979 Ford ambulance for a new 1987 Chevy Type I (box type), one day it caught fire due to an electrical short and burned. With the insurance money, they were able to replace it with a 1991 Ford Collins Type III Diesel (a box Picture 3type), but while waiting on that ambulance to arrive they purchased a used Ford Type II (van type). In 1992, Hartley, applied for a grant to buy a new ambulance with 4×4 capability for emergencies occuring in harder to reach locations or on poor road conditions. The grant, received from the State of Colorado, was used to purchase a 1992 Ford Type III ambulance as well as a blood pressure monitor and two automatic defibrillators. One stipulation of the grant was that the older used ambulance be placed in service elsewhere in the district. At the time, the Pritchett/Kim Quick Response Team (QRT) based out of Pritchett was in need of a unit, so the Ford van type ambulance was placed there.

Later grants allowed SECH Ambulance Service to again update the fleet first with a 1997 Ford Type I, then a 2003 Ford Type I and most recently a 2010 Dodge Type I.  2010-dodge-ambulance-ERIn addition, in 2001, SECH Ambulance Service became one of the first agencies in the state of Colorado to purchase a smaller transfer ambulance,Transfer-Ambulance-3041 in this case, a converted 2001 Ford Excursion. Later a 2006 GMC Yukon was added to the transfer fleet. SECH Ambulance Service now maintains two box type ambulances and the two smaller transfer units. All four units are stocked with the required equipment and supplies to operate an Advanced Life Support service. As replacements have occurred, the older model units have been donated or sold to other ambulance services or local QRTs.

QRTs have played an important role in Baca County’s Emergency Medical Services. They were born out of a need for a faster response to emergencies in the most rural locations. They generally do not transport patients but instead provide supportive care until the nearest ambulance arrives.

Kim QRT out of Las Animas County was the first QRT in the state of Colorado. It began providing service to the Kim area around 1979 or the early 1980s. In 1991, a few people from the Pritchett area became certified EMTs so the two regions combined becoming the Pritchett/Kim QRT. Around 1995, Kim returned to operating their own service out of Kim and Pritchett QRT retained a unit until 2006. At that point, there were no longer any certified EMTs in Pritchett so the Pritchett QRT was discontinued. Kim Ambulance is still operative and currently under the direction of Lon Robertson, Paramedic.

In the mid-1980s, at the encouragement of Worth Poteet, EMTs LeRoy and Esther England of Campo, along with several other early EMTs from that area started Campo QRT. Campo’s first QRT unit, a repurposed 1973 Chevy model van fondly recalled as “the brown bus,” responded to many a patient in need before it was later replaced by a box type unit. They currently operate with the 1997 Ford Type I vehicle donated by SECH Ambulance Service. Picture 6smallThough they also assist Walsh Ambulance Service at times by responding to calls east of Campo, Campo QRT, is now a subsidiary of SECH Ambulance Service. Many have graciously volunteered their time in service through Campo QRT, but the Englands remain the only EMTs still practicing there.

SECH Ambulance Service first housed ambulances in what is now the maintenance building north of the hospital. The building was initially shared with Central Supply, though Central Supply eventually moved. The ambulance service continued operating from that location until 1999 when Hartley applied for and received a grant to buy a different building and remodel it. Picture 7The old Auto Parts building on Kansas Street was purchased. Having significant construction experience, Hartley and his son, Jered, transformed the building into the current ambulance station with attached classroom and office space.Picture 8small

In 1988, SECH Ambulance Service was struggling to find and keep volunteers to staff the ambulances. A shortage of equipment needed to treat patients was also a significant problem. SECH District, also experiencing financial limitations, was unable to provide the funds necessary to purchase additional equipment for the ambulance service. As a result, the EMTs decided to organize the Springfield EMS Association to provide support for the ambulance service. In 1990, Springfield EMS Association, Inc., became incorporated and filed for 501c3 non-profit status which was granted in 1992. The Association’s main goals are to provide man-power, funding for equipment, and training for current and new EMTs. They determined that any equipment acquired through their efforts would be donated to SECH Ambulance Service. The training they work to provide to all of the EMTs in Baca County is offered at no, or very little, cost to the EMTs. Funding is obtained primarily through grants, fundraisers, and donations. Furthermore, Springfield EMS Association Inc. offers CPR and First Aid classes as well as injury prevention training to the public at no cost.

Collaborative teamwork between SECH District and Springfield EMS Association Inc. has brought SECH Ambulance Service up to one of the best small community ambulance services in the state. As we celebrate National EMS Week May 17-23, SECH Ambulance Service and Springfield EMS Association would like to thank you for your continued support and wish you a happy and healthy future.

By Cherilyn England, NREMT-Intermediate/99

Dennis Ring Retires After 36 years in EMS

Dennis Ring, longtime resident of Springfield, Colorado in Baca County, is one who can say he gave something back to his community. In 1978, as Emergency Medical Services was taking root across the nation, Dennis took and passed the Emergency Medical Technician Basic course offered here in Springfield. Eventually he became IV certified in addition to maintaining his Colorado state certification as an EMT-B. Responding to calls as “EMS-14,” Dennis volunteered with Southeast Colorado Hospital Ambulance Service for the next 28 years until he was hired on as a full-time staff member there in 2006. On September 15, 2014, Dennis retired from Southeast Colorado Hospital and EMS, calling out his farewell as EMS-14 on the radio for the last time and turning in his equipment. After 36 years in EMS, Dennis stated that he would probably be spending much of his time in retirement either doing odd jobs around home or out fishing. We wish you many happy years in retirement, Dennis. DennisDennis received a specially crafted belt buckle in honor of his years of service