HOISINGTON — Over the weekend of July 4-7, 2019 Hoisington EMS was unable to provide round the clock coverage for the community, something they are required to have by statute, City Manager Jonathan Mitchell said. He spoke with the Tribune about the matter from his office at the Hoisington Municipal Complex Thursday morning, along with Acting Director of EMS Megan Elmore. It is that gap in coverage that prompted an investigation by the Kansas Board of Emergency Medical Services. On Thursday, Oct. 3, Mitchell and Elmore will travel to Topeka for a hearing of the KBEMS resulting from that investigation.
On the afternoon of July 9, the KBEMS Executive Director Joseph House sent an email to former director Scott Fleming which was copied to Mitchell.
“We received a report today that Hoisington’s ambulance service had inadequate staffing to provide ambulance service to emergency calls this past weekend. As you’re aware, Kansas statute requires all primary ambulance services providing emergency care to offer that service 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Please let me know immediately if this occurred,” Mitchell read. Fleming responded right away, Mitchell said, providing the board investigator with all information requested.
As part of the investigation, KBEMS board has asked the city what it is doing to correct the problem. Topping the list, changes in leadership were made, Mitchell said. He referred to Fleming’s termination Aug. 12, and subsequently, Elmore’s promotion. In addition, the city has pushed to solicit interest for technicians via social meeting and at public meeting. Since then, two new volunteers have entered into the city’s EMT trainng reimbursement program, and are currently enrolled in classes at Barton Community College. The city will pick up the cost of that instruction in exchange for their regularly scheduled service for a number of months.
Training is a big commitment, Mitchell said. Some who complete the training and commitment with the city continue for many years, considering their service a hobby job. Others may develop a passion for it and continue through advanced levels of training and make it a full time career.
In addition to the new trainees, a full-time provider from Great Bend who resides in Hoisington has agreed to take call, Elmore said.
Mitchell and Elmore have also reached out to inactive volunteer EMT’s who have agreed to come back.
“With a volunteer department, a lot is about personalities, and we think that there’s been some folks that are willing to come back due to some changes there,” Mitchell said. “We still struggle with coverage because we are a volunteer department, but all we can do is keep talking about the incredible work that they do and see if we can get others interested in being part of that.”
Elmore said all weekends have been covered since she took leadership of the department on Aug. 12. To provide adequate coverage, the service must have two certified technicians on call at all times. She will continue to recruit via social media and at local engagements. Its a roll she’s been active in for many years with Hoisington EMS as Fleming’s former assistant, and is showing early success at in her role as director.
The city received a letter from the KBEMS last week informing them of the Oct. 3 hearing. Mitchell said he is uncertain what to expect at the hearing.
“I feel like we really need to be there because a hearing before a regulatory body like that is a big deal,” Mitchell said. “They handle licensure for every ambulance service in the state and for every technician in the state.”