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June 2024

Questa  •  Red River  •  Cerro  •  Costilla  •  Amalia  •  Lama  •  San Cristobal

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Courtesy Photo Cousins Raynelle Cordova and Amos Cordova both volunteer together to serve the community

Questa EMS Struggle with Uptick in Calls and Limited Funding

Courtesy Photo Raynelle Cordova drives the Questa Fire Truck

The Village of Questa EMS Department continues to face challenges responding to calls in the Questa area. Currently, the village has three full-time staff and 16 part-time staff. Raynelle Cordova leads the department, serving as a paramedic and as the EMS Coordinator. She has been with the agency village since 2016.

“Back when then Mayor Gallegos asked if I’d take over, he told me it would be an uphill battle. If I wouldn’t be able to do it, we would risk losing the emergency services to Taos County,” Raynelle recalls. Having had been recently injured in a car accident between Questa and Taos, she experienced first-hand the severe delay in receiving ambulatory care as Questa didn’t have personnel available to respond. This made her new endeavor a personal one to ensure the citizens of the greater Questa area would have adequate and timely EMS services.

Questa’s continued growth and advancement in a post-mining economy has increased tourism in the area, a welcome sight for local business owners. The growth and advancement, however, has also provided challenges for the village. When Raynelle started with the village in 2016, the agency would see around 300 calls for service every year. In 2022, the department had over 600 calls for service. So far in 2023, calls for service are over 200 as trend continues upward.

While EMS is funded by the village, the Questa Fire Department is fully staffed by volunteers. “Fire has always been volunteer, and that’s become a thing of the past. It’s been a struggle to recruit new volunteers. On any given weekday, if we needed to respond to a fire, we would struggle to get a full crew to respond. Volunteers have jobs to provide for their families,” Raynelle says.

In addition to her role as Paramedic and EMS Coordinator, she has also taken on the role of grant writer focusing on EMS grant opportunities and her husband, Mike Cordova who is the Fire Chief for Taos County Fire has assisted with writing grants for fire. Together, they’ve worked to obtain more resources for Questa.

Since 2016, Questa has acquired two ambulances, one fire tender, a new fire truck new bunker gear, new extrication gear and wildland fire gear and resources. The funding through these items comes through a mix of grants, state funding, ARPA COVID dollars, and funding from the village.

In addition to writing grants, Raynelle has gotten creative in working to find other ways to supplement revenue by sending an ambulance on fire deployments for wildfires around the state. This allows the village to receive revenue streams to supplement the budget.

Raynelle recognizes the whole state is experiencing the same challenges as Questa with funding being the underlying component. “The state needs to pay more money for our public service employees. It must be a priority,” she says. This year is the first time the fire department received a grant to pay a small stipend for fire volunteers who are regularly in the mix.

“My fear for the future is not having an EMS service in Questa due to lack of providers and the lack of revenue to pay our providers a decent wage. Surrounding communities are working to improve the wages for their emergency personnel, I hope Questa is able to follow suit,” Raynelle says.

Mayor John Ortega acknowledges the limited resources. “We need additional funding to increase staffing for our EMS department. Without increased funding from the legislature, we are unable to increase pay for our staff and attract skilled professionals to fill these roles. Things are changing in Questa and we’ve seen an uptick in calls. We are working diligently to obtain more funding to meet this increased need,” Ortega says.

Since Ortega has been mayor, the village has increased wages for EMS staff by 15%. Unfortunately, these increases are offset by cost-of-living increases. Mayor Ortega maintains he is working with the village lobbyist and legislators to obtain increased funding from the state to grow the budget and salaries for the department.