Teller County commissioners plan to walk back a controversial resolution passed in January that terminated the county’s former medical director and appointed Dr. Timothy Hurtado to the position effective Feb. 1.
After public outcry over the commission’s Jan. 21 decision, commissioners said Thursday they plan to vote on a new resolution next month to specifically designate both Hurtado and Dr. Jeremy DeWall — who worked as the county’s medical director since 2014 — as the county’s two medical directors.
The new resolution will expand Teller County's practice of requiring only one single county-designated medical director as a condition of ambulance licensing and allow emergency medical service agencies in Teller County to select either DeWall or Hurtado as their medical director.
“I thought (Thursday’s decision) was a good win-win,” said Mark Fogg, the Denver-based attorney for DeWall, who alleged the county exceeded its authority when it designated Hurtado as medical director. “I thought the commissioners tried to do what is right.”
The move to hire Hurtado was brought to county commissioners last month after Teller County Administrator Sheryl Decker reported several emergency medical service and fire agencies were “significantly frustrated” with DeWall’s performance as medical director, including lack of communication, extreme numbers of protocol and guidance changes they said burdened their agencies, and lack of flexibility in training requirements.
But DeWall’s supporters said he provided adequate direction and was a positive impact on emergency care in the county. At Thursday’s meeting, several agency representatives pushed the county to allow for more than one medical director so each agency could choose its own.
“Is Dr. DeWall a good doctor? Absolutely,” Dean O’Nale, Deputy Fire Chief of the Northeast Teller County Fire Protection District, told commissioners. “What we’re saying is one size does not fit all.”
Having multiple medical directors allows doctors with different specialties to address the individual needs of various agencies, Four Mile Protection District Chief Jay Teague said.
“If we go with one medical director in Teller County, I think we’re going to have these issues again,” he said.
When commissioners unanimously passed the resolution firing DeWall, opponents said they were blindsided by the move and felt the county should have solicited opinions on the matter before a decision was made.
On Thursday, commissioners acknowledged though the item was legally added to the Jan. 21 agenda, it was done with late enough notice to stymie public comment. Commissioners said the item was “fairly non-controversial.”
In a Feb. 22 report, Decker apologized for the apparent lack of transparency, saying the public process was “far below” county standards. At the direction of the board, Decker gathered public input, presented at Thursday’s meeting.
“I cannot change what was previously done but I believe I have addressed this situation,” Decker wrote.
DeWall and his supporters also alleged the county did not have the authority to designate a county medical director under state statutes and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment regulations for emergency medical services.
But Dr. Jeff Beckman, a medical director at the state Department of Public Health and Environment and associate division director for health facilities and emergency medical services, advised Decker in a Feb. 16 email the state “has no involvement in local medical director decisions and respects the authority of the counties in these types of EMS agency related matters.”