UPDATE OF THE CLEARWATER EMS PLANS
Following the community meeting held last night regarding the future of the Clearwater EMS, I wanted to recap the discussion and provide our next steps. For those that attended the meeting, thank you for taking time to come by.
As I begin this it must be stressed that we are discussing ONLY our Emergency Medical Service (EMS) and not our Volunteer Fire Department.
As you all know, we have had an all-volunteer EMS service in Clearwater for years. We have always been and continue to be grateful for the volunteers’ service to our community. Our EMS is governed by state regulation K.A.R. 109 that stipulates we must maintain a duty roster of two certified EMS individuals on a 24 hour per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year basis. We must respond to any call with two certified EMS individuals and if we fail to have at least two qualified individuals the patient cannot be transported in our ambulance. We currently have 13 EMS certified individuals appointed to our volunteer EMS department. It sounds like enough; however, each have full-time careers and their volunteer service availability is not always enough to meet state requirements. Our failure to maintain enough coverage must be addressed in a way that will ensure compliance.
The Governing Body has been working over the past several weeks to look at several options. We reached out to Sedgwick County to determine what would be involved for EMS coverage to be provided by them. We understood for them to provide local coverage it would cost the City an estimated $522,000. Based on that information we developed a plan to enhance our local service with the addition of 4 full time positions that would be supported by our volunteers. The plan includes hiring a Director and adding 3 certified EMS staff. Our EMS leadership and our current volunteers felt with this plan we could retain our local service and the volunteers would have 50% less demand on them to provide the coverage. We currently have $187,906 budgeted in 2019 for the EMS department. The additional FTE requirements and associated cost would be additional $179,863 for an estimated total cost of $367,769 to fund the department.
We learned late last week following the release of our letter to the community that the estimate provided by the County was not a cost Clearwater would pay, it is the cost to the County to provide the service. Because we already pay taxes that help fund Sedgwick County EMS, the City of Clearwater would not have to pay additional funds. Ron Marsh, City Administrator, and I met on Monday with County Representatives to ensure we understood what options were available if the County assumed responsibility for the service. The following options were presented:
Option 1 - Staff an ambulance in Clearwater 12 hours per day, 7 days per week, using County personnel, with Clearwater ambulance and facility. The estimated annual cost to Sedgwick County, including personnel, ambulance maintenance & fuel and ITS lines and support, $292,435.
Option 2 - Staff an ambulance in Clearwater 24/7 using County personnel, with Clearwater ambulance and facility. The estimated annual cost to Sedgwick County, including personnel, ambulance maintenance & fuel and ITS lines and support, $522,102.
Option 3 - Provide service to Clearwater 24/7 using existing resources from existing posts, with average 15-minute response times, at no cost to Clearwater and no additional cost to Sedgwick County.
We submitted a formal request today to the county for a determination on which option they are willing to support. Options 1 and 2 require County Commissioners approval and must be presented to them for a decision. Because the funds are not budgeted for 2019, the Commission must approve the spending. Option 3 does not have additional cost to the county and doesn’t require Commissioner approval. We are formally requesting the County consider option 2.
Once we learn which option the county will support, we must then determine if the plan to keep the EMS Service local using paid and volunteer personnel is worth the additional investment. There are key factors to consider:
Local Service – the Ambulance Service will be in Clearwater and following each call will return to Clearwater. Currently, if our service is on a call the County supplies support. Likewise, there are calls the County will ask us to assist on if their resources are engaged and it falls within our geographic area of coverage.
County Service – For either the 24/7 or the 12/7 the service will be in Clearwater. However, the resource will become an asset within the County responsiveness capabilities and therefore can be called out of Clearwater as needed throughout the day. For the off hours of the 12/7 coverage and Option 3 – the response will come from the nearest available resource to Clearwater. Currently the County shows an average of 15 minutes to respond. Additionally, our current geographical coverage area extends into Sumner County. Sedgwick County would not respond to calls in this area and Clearwater residents living in Sumner County would be served by another EMS service, possibly Mulvane, Conway Springs or Wellington.
It must be clearly understood that there can be no guarantee that an ambulance will always be available in Clearwater regardless of who is providing EMS service.
Local Service – the City must assume the additional estimated cost of $179,863 for 2019. We have identified potential savings to cover the partial year cost. The new cost would be built into our future budgeting decisions that would affect the full range of services provided by the City.
County Service – there would be no additional cost to the City. The current cost would be greatly if not eliminated.
Local Service – To maintain our certification to be a ground ambulance service we MUST continue to meet state regulations. If at any time in the future we fail to satisfy the state requirements with our full-time paid staff in combination with our volunteers, we could lose our certification and the County Service would be our only option.
County Service – They are responsible for all compliance.
I’m sure this will add many questions to the ones you already have.
We have a second community meeting scheduled for Monday, February 4th. That meeting is cancelled. I believe it best to delay that meeting until we have the response from the County so we can have the full facts available to make further decisions. Once the County responds to our request, we will schedule a community meeting to inform our citizens.
Please understand that while we work through this process, we still have our dedicated volunteers responding to calls and we have agreements in place with Sedgwick County, Mulvane, and Conway Springs to provide coverage as necessary.