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Hoisington gaining ground on EMT shortage
new vlc HEMS
Hoisington relies on several volunteers to keep its Emergency Medical Service staffed. This photo, taken at the 2014 Labor Day parade, includes: (kneeling) Rae Walker Paramedic, Angela Beck Paramedic/RN and Megan ElmoreEMT, (standing left to right) Scott Fleming Paramedic/Director, Luke Brandenberg EMT, Shane Anderck AEMT, Brain Steinert EMT, Elea Durr Paramedic, Stephine Kaiser EMT student, John Price EMT, and Deana Perterson AEMT. This is only part of the whole roster total roster, which now numbers 21 techs. - photo by Courtesy Scott Fleming

At the Hoisington City Council meeting Feb. 23, EMS Director Scott Fleming announced the successful completion of Emergency Medical Technician training for five new volunteers.   
“We are willing to train many more,” City Manager Jonathan Mitchell said in an interview with the Great Bend Tribune.
Three have already finished the cognitive and psychomotor examinations and are newly certified.  They are Mitchell, Toni Lovett and John Price, who was previously a volunteer Emergency Medical Responder with Hoisington’s ambulance service.  As soon as they receive their EMT cards from the Kansas Board of EMS, they will serve 12-hour shifts each month as on-call EMTs.
Ashley Fowler, who works with Russell’s hospital, and Bryan Horton, a Hoisington police officer, are in the process of completing the required testing and should be done in the near future, Fowler said.
Hoisington’s EMS is all volunteer except for Fleming and one part-time person.  That makes finding adequate coverage during the weekday difficult.  Volunteers have other jobs, and many can’t leave in the middle of a shift.  If a city has an ambulance, the state mandates it is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  That means two EMTs need to be available at a moments notice to respond to a call.  Hoisington has two ambulances, but until recently, having four EMTs available has been hit and miss.  
Since Fleming, a paramedic and an instructor coordinator (IC), came on in May, the number of certified volunteers has grown between 20 and 25 percent, he estimates.   At this point, the city now has 20 EMTs to pull from.
“We’re always open to volunteers who want to become EMR or EMT certified,” he said.  “If they are willing to exchange volunteer shifts for training, we’ll do as much as we can to help them.”
The training for the last batch of EMTs started in mid-August, and ended mid-February.  Students attended classes two nights a week for four hours,in addition to several weekend sessions, and served on an ambulance for 24 hours and in an emergency room for 12 hours.  
“Becoming an EMT today requires a lot of dedication just to get certified,” Fleming said.  “Anyone who’s been doing it for any length of time has missed many meals, birthdays, and night out with their spouses.”  
They do this with very minimal compensation, making the real rewards intrinsic.  Some who want to continue with their training to become paramedics are supported too, but are required to give back more time.  That’s because it takes 2,000 hours of training to become a paramedic.

Making training pay off
Increasing the pool of EMTs the city can pull from should allow more medical transfers to be made from Hoisington’s Clara Barton Hospital.  This is a high priority for the city, because transfers pay well, money the city needs if its going to be able to maintain and replace its ambulances as needed, Fleming said.
In the past, even though the city had two ambulances available, they didn’t have enough personnel to transfer out of the Clara Barton service area and still have adequate coverage at home in case an emergency arose, Fleming said.  
Following the example of neighboring Ellinwood, Mitchell said, Hoisington’s governing body made it a priority to support local people who volunteer to get the training needed to become certified EMTs.
According to Mitchell, now the city needs to visit with providers at Clara Barton Hospital to ensure they know about the changes, and encourage them to once again make Hoisington their first call when they need a transfer.  
Fleming sums it up well.  “We’re getting through some growing pains,” Fleming said.  As he continues to grow the pool, those growing pains should ease and a transformed city EMS will be able to meet the needs of its community over the long haul.