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New Mexico Cancels Town's Ambulance Certificate

Nearly four-and-a-half years after transferring its EMS operations to Lincoln County, Ruidoso Tuesday had its ambulance operating authority cancelled by the state.

In November 2009, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission called on the village to show why Ruidoso should not be found in violation of their charter to provide ambulance services.

"They needed to request of the Public Regulation Commission that the certificate be cancelled," said Commissioner Ben Hall of Ruidoso.

"Just by them saying we don't want it anymore, that doesn't do it. My concern was that there were certain stipulations in that certificate that might cause Lincoln County to fall under some obligations that Ruidoso had originally made under their certificate. So I initiated the process to have it cancelled. And this relieves Ruidoso of any responsibility for what may have been on that certificate."

Ruidoso certificate required the village to provide ambulance services in Lincoln County and on the Mescalero Apache Reservation beyond Lincoln County.

In September 2006, the village turned over its ambulances and EMS facilities at the Lincoln County Medical Center to the county.

Lincoln County's Certificate of Convenience and Necessity permitting ambulance operations does not include Mescalero.

The matter really surfaced in January 2009 when a student, waiting for a school bus on the reservation, was struck by a car. It took 45 minutes for an Otero County contracted ambulance based in Alamogordo to reach the location on the north side of Mescalero.

Hall said Mescalero has an issue with emergency medical responses.

"I was at the tribal council meeting about six weeks ago and we talked with President Mark Chino about their ambulance service and we're trying to figure out a way we can help them," Hall said. "It's sad to say, but they don't have proper ambulance service on the Mescalero Indian Reservation. Part of that is due to the fact that they are a sovereign nation that pays no taxes into the coffers of Otero County which really should be the one to provide the ambulance service. But in order to provide service they have to be compensated somehow."

Hall said the issue is beyond the authority of the PRC.

"It's up to them to work out a deal with Otero County, or Lincoln County, if Lincoln County wants to do that. We can't force anybody, Lincoln County or Otero County, to provide the full coverage for the Mescaleros that they need."

Hall said the PRC could help the tribe obtain a certificate to operate ambulances.

The PRC's action on Tuesday canceling Ruidoso's certificate concluded an inquiry by the commission involving the lack of required ambulance operations under the terms of the certificate.

The village had been potentially liable for a $10,000 fine, which Hall said the PRC did not impose.



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