LARNED — Policy makers and stakeholders from around Pawnee County met Monday at noon at the Pawnee County Courthouse to discuss the future of Emergency Medical Services in the county. The meeting, called by the Pawnee County Commission, was a first step in determining if there is a need and support for a county operated EMS and Ambulance service.
Representatives from the Pawnee County cities of Larned, Burdett, Rozel and Garfield, the Pawnee County Sheriff’s Office, county Emergency Management and Health departments, EMS providers, fire departments and the University of Kansas Health Systems Pawnee Valley Campus were asked to weigh in on the discussion following a Powerpoint presentation by Pawnee County Attorney Doug McNett. Kyle Beckwith, a local business owner and first responder volunteer, was invited to attend as a local citizen representative.
McNett’s presentation outlined how EMS is currently provided in the county. The City of Larned and the Cities of Burdett and Rozel provide EMS coverage to their respective cities and the townships surrounding them. Each service is organized and insured independently, and is responsible for its own equipment and scheduling of employees and volunteer EMTs. In addition, Larned EMS provides backup coverage for Burdett, Rozel and Garfield and the surrounding areas.
Larned’s EMS staff includes a full-time administrator, six full-time technicians, four part-time technicians and nine PRN technicians. The service provides Advanced Life Support service (ALS). Care needs to be taken in scheduling the PRNs in order to not go over the hours threshold that would subject the city to pay into KPERS for them, McNett said. Burdett’s service is all-volunteer Basic Life Support service (BLS), with each person on-call 24 hours, seven days a week. They communicate via text to ensure there are enough people in the area at all times to provide service when needed.
In 2020, Larned EMS is budgeted $937,150, of which $627,150 are taxpayer dollars. Expected revenue is $310,000, and an additional $250,850 in reimbursement from the county. The city plans to put $145,000 toward a new truck in 2020. Burdett EMS is budgeted $210,000 for 2020.
According to McNett, in Kansas there are 75 county-operated EMS services. He provided a budget review, comparing several with populations within 25% of the size of Pawnee County. While some counties provide more services and others fewer, it provided a range, he said, with the median budget around $600,000.
McNett included potential funding sources and addressed the greatest areas of need in the county, specifically a recruitment and retention plan, a community-based and representative board, a wellness program for staff and public information, education and relations.
Burdett EMS Director provides additional information on service
Concerns over reporting on coverage and operations aired
BY VERONICA COONS / email@example.com
BURDETT — Chelsea Hoffman has been a volunteer with the Burdett EMS service in western Pawnee County for the past seven years, and in January became its director. She contacted the Great Bend Tribune on Wednesday, March 4, in response to the article appearing in that day’s edition, “Pawnee County considering county EMS service.”
Hoffman called to set the record straight on some of the points reported in the story concerning the past and present operations of Burdett’s EMS service. While it was stated at the meeting on Monday at the Pawnee County Courthouse that the volunteer EMS service communicates by text, Hoffman clarified that she also personally updates a daily schedule which is posted in the Burdett fire station.
In the portion of Wednesday’s story that provided background concerning circumstances surrounding EMS service in the county dating back to 2017, Hoffman provided corrections.
It was stated that in 2017, “volunteers were asked to pay for their training ...” This was not the case, Hoffman said. The Burdett EMS service has always provided funding for training its Emergency Medical Technicians.
It was also stated that by the end of 2017, “... the Burdett EMS service was unable to recruit enough volunteers to adequately staff the service by the end of 2017, so the City of Larned entered into an agreement with the county to provide EMS to the western half of the county, with the city invoicing the county on a monthly basis.”
Hoffman states this was not the case. Burdett EMS was able to recruit an adequate number of EMT volunteers for the Basic Life Support service they are licensed to provide, she said. However, they still required backup from Larned EMS for Advanced Life Support service. The City of Larned did enter into an agreement with Pawnee County to provide ALS to the western half of the county.
Background information for Wednesday’s article came from 2017 reporting by the Great Bend Tribune on Pawnee County EMS concerns.
Monday’s meeting stemmed from a conversation between members of the Pawnee County Leadership Committee when they met on Feb. 3 at the Santa Fe Trail Center, McNett said. The topic of exploring the transfer of EMS to Pawnee County Emergency Management was discussed later that evening by the Larned City Council.
It wasn’t the first time the topic surfaced. In February of 2017, representatives from Rozel and Burdett met with county commissioners with Larned City Council members in attendance to discuss possibly giving up their ambulance license. The City of Burdett was having difficulty finding enough volunteers to staff its service the required 24 hours a day, seven days a week to keep the license. Training requirements and location of training were a stumbling block, it turned out. Volunteers were asked to pay for their training, and were required to travel significant distances for months on end to attend the classes.
A Blue Ribbon Committee was formed to look into EMS service throughout the county. Larned City Councilman Kim Barnes volunteered to be part of that committee. In May, Larned City Manager Bradley Eilts announced the City had received a Kansas Board of Emergency Medical Services Education Initiative Grant to provide EMT training at Larned for volunteers from around the county. Kara Kraus-Lawrence, a Larned EMS employee and an EMT instructor, agreed to teach the EMS class that year in Larned. The council approved the grant and agreed to chip in for advertising and some class materials.
Even with the grant and local training, the Burdett EMS service was unable to recruit enough volunteers to adequately staff the service by the end of 2017, so the City of Larned entered into an agreement with the county to provide EMS to the western half of the county, with the city invoicing the county on a monthly basis. That has been the agreement since the beginning of 2018.
Interest indicates research needed
Commissioner Bob Rein Jr., expressed support for moving forward.
“We want the best we can do for our citizens,” he said. “When I look at this, that’s what I want to explore: How can we provide our citizens with the best EMS service care we can give them, the most efficient and most effective.”
He then invited attendees to provide comments. Commissioner Debra Lewis asked EMS directors in attendance to explain the difference between ALS and BLS. Essentially, ALS provides emergency room level care in transit, while BLS is more limited.
Concerns about distance and coverage were also expressed. The option of keeping ambulances at satellite locations was discussed, as were complications in determining which hospital to transport patients to under various circumstances.
In many ways, EMS might operate much like it does currently under county operation, but efficiencies could be realized.
“I’m not saying we’re going to reduce costs, but I think you may be able to get more for the same cost,” Rein said. “I think that’s the best-case scenario.”
Larned Mayor William Nusser wondered if a transfer could be considered in time for the budget process mid-summer, but Rein stated he felt it might be too soon to move forward in 2020.
Lewis suggested the commissioners discuss and research it further. While a specific meeting date and time was not set, Rein suggested another could be called in early April.
“There’s going to be a lot of outreach involved because there’s a lot of people who have been through it and a lot of people are doing it in different ways,” he said.