Commission looks to improve ambulance coverage

By Brian McCauley
Louisburg Herald – May 7, 2015

The Miami County Emergency Medical Services station is located on Clover Drive near U.S. Highway 169 between Paola and Osawatomie. County Commissioner Danny Gallagher has proposed building another station in the Hillsdale area sometime in the next three years. Photos by Brian McCauley.

The Miami County Emergency Medical Services station is located on Clover Drive near U.S. Highway 169 between Paola and Osawatomie. County Commissioner Danny Gallagher has proposed building another station in the Hillsdale area sometime in the next three years. Photos by Brian McCauley.

A Miami County ambulance is parked outside the Miami County Courthouse during a training exercise Friday. County commissioners recently approved a new agreement with Johnson County Fire District No. 2 that should improve response times to the northeast portion of the county.

A Miami County ambulance is parked outside the Miami County Courthouse during a training exercise Friday. County commissioners recently approved a new agreement with Johnson County Fire District No. 2 that should improve response times to the northeast portion of the county.

The Miami County Commission last week approved a new agreement with Johnson County Fire District No. 2 that should improve ambulance response times in the northeast portion of the county, but commissioners still realize more action will be needed sooner rather than later to meet the county’s growing need for emergency services.
The new three-year agreement continues the partnership the two entities have had for several years, with a few changes. The first is that the agreement will no longer be bound by Johnson County Fire District No. 2 boundaries, which excluded portions of northeast Miami County.
The new agreement extends the area of coverage for Johnson County Fire District No. 2 to provide services in an 8-square-mile region between 215th Street and 232rd Street and State Line Road to Antioch Road.
The ambulance stationed at Johnson County Fire District No. 2’s station in Stilwell is often the closest to Miami County residents who make emergency calls from the northeast portion of the county.
Another change in the agreement is that the current contract price of $30,000 will increase each year until it tops off at $40,250 in 2018. It will be $35,000 in 2015, $36,750 in 2016, and $38,500 in 2017.
Miami County used to pay $40,000, but the contract was reduced to $30,000 four years ago when Miami County Emergency Medical Services took on the fire district’s billing. That billing has since been taken over by another agency.
Commissioner George Pretz expressed concern that Johnson County Fire District No. 2 is a BLS (basic life support) agency and is not yet an ALS (advanced life support) agency like Miami County Emergency Medical Services.
BLS services include conducting CPR, supplying oxygen and taking life signs, while ALS services include putting in IVs and putting somebody on a ventilator, among other things.
Johnson County Fire District No. 2 EMS Chief Steve Chick told the commissioners, during their April 29 meeting, that his agency has made a substantial investment to obtain the ALS status, and his employees are in the process of completing training. The district already has part-time ALS status at one of its stations, Chick said.
Pretz asked how long Chick thought it would be before Johnson County Fire District No. 2 reached the full-time ALS designation, and Chick said he’d like to be there in the next year but it could take up to 18 months depending on any changes in his staffing.
Chick assured the commissioners, though, that Miami County EMS would still be sent to the calls and would only be called off if it was a BLS incident. Miami County would handle ALS incidents until Johnson County Fire District No. 2 reaches the full-time ALS designation.
The new agreement was approved unanimously by the commissioners.
During their morning study session earlier in the day, the commissioners discussed the need to address long-term ambulance coverage issues.
Commissioner Rob Roberts handed out a chart that detailed Miami County EMS statistics since 2003. Total calls have increased from 2,466 in 2003 to 3,198 in 2014.
Miami County EMS Chief Dave Ediger also said there were 108 zero status calls last year. The department is at zero status when all three of its staffed ambulances are responding to calls and another call comes in. Johnson County Fire District No. 2 moves an ambulance south during those times to respond to those calls in Miami County.
Commissioner Danny Gallagher suggested considering building an EMS station in the Hillsdale area. He handed out multiple maps that detailed response times, and he said a station in Hillsdale would maximize the number of residents located within a five-mile radius of the facility.
Gallagher said a station in Hillsdale could also cut the response time to the Timber Trace Ranch subdivision area north of Hillsdale Lake by about four minutes.
Miami County EMS has an average response time of 10 minutes, but the national expectation for an ALS agency is 8 minutes, Ediger said.
“I’d like to see us present in Hillsdale in about three years,” Gallagher said.
Ediger said the cost of manning a station 24 hours a day is about $390,000, which includes salaries, benefits and 88 hours of overtime.



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