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Counties offer EMS options

Staff writer

After increasing the EMS budget for 2018 by 42 percent over 2017, Marion County residents could end up paying more for ambulance service than 11 Kansas counties closest in population. And that’s after commissioners took another look at the budget and slashed about $165,000 from personnel, intended to come from about $248,000 in overtime pay

Information on 2017 budgets, derived from Kansas Department of Revenue, for Allen, Bourbon, Brown, Cloud, Jackson, Linn, Marion, Marshall, Nemaha, Osage, Pratt, and Rice counties, was provided to the newspaper by Randy Collett and Anthony Roy, economic development directors for Marion and Hillsboro.

In 2017, Marion County was on the higher end of ambulance service expense. If others did not increase for 2018, Marion’s service would be the most expensive.

But comparing budgets alone can be deceiving. At least four different models for ambulance service exist among the 12 counties.

Calls to county clerks and EMS directors in several of the counties expand on the financial comparisons, revealing different methods for ambulance service.

Private company contracts

Several counties on the list contract out ambulance services, three of them with EMS Techs Inc., a Holton-based company in operation since 2000.

One of them, Nemaha County, both budgets less for ambulances and has lower county mill levies than Marion County.

It is the second-closest county in population to Marion County at 10,241. There are two major cities in the county: Sabetha and Seneca. Combined, their populations make up nearly half the county.

The private ambulance service has two stations, one in Seneca and another in Centralia. Sabetha, the largest town, is closer to the edge of the county and operates its own volunteer ambulance service separate from the county.

The $750,000 contracted by Nemaha County to EMS Techs Inc. does not include that separate city ambulance service in Sabetha.

Per person, taxpayers in Nemaha County spend $73 on EMS.

Combined with city fire department

Allen County has the most similar population to Marion County at 12,714, but it spent almost half as much on ambulance service at $499,000.

The countywide EMS service combined with the city fire department in Iola, the county seat, a few years ago.

Iola funds its own fire department and houses one of the ambulance barns. Its population makes up nearly half of the county, but two other ambulances are stationed in Humboldt and Moran.

Before combined service, 18 full-time personnel and several part-timers worked for EMS. Now, about 30 full-time personnel do all the fire and ambulance service. Firefighters are also trained EMTs and paramedics.

There were 1,857 runs in 2016. People in Allen County paid $39.25 per person for ambulance service.

Only private service

Brown County had the lowest EMS budget at $122,400 and per capita expense at $12.64.

The county does not operate an ambulance service, and it does not contract with private services. Instead, the EMS budget pays for requests from private services, such as payments on new ambulances.

County-run service

Like Marion County, ambulance services in Pratt and Rice counties are operated by the county. Pratt County, with the only EMS budget over $1 million, was the only county that spent more per person on ambulance service than Marion County in 2017. Pratt County’s budget of $1,317,479 meant $137.47 per person.

Pratt County has one ambulance station with 11 full-time positions, including six paramedics, three A-EMTs, one EMT, and one open position. Another 15 part-time personnel include four paramedics and 11 EMTs.

In 2016, ambulances responded to 1,108 calls to the county of 9,584 people.

Rice County, with a population of 9,831, had 916 calls served by its two ambulance stations.

The nine full-time positions include four paramedics, three EMTs, one A-EMT, and one unfilled position. Another five part-time personnel include one paramedic, one A-EMT, and three EMTs.

With a budget of $612,850, taxpayers in Rice County pay $62.34 per person for ambulance service.

Marion County

Marion County has five stations staffed by 12 full-time positions, including a director, office manager, three paramedics, three A-EMTs, and four EMTs.

There are no regular part-time personnel, but 27 volunteers from a roster of 57 had paid on-call time this month.

At a population of 12,112, five ambulances are spread across the county in Marion, Hillsboro, Peabody, Florence, and Tampa. They responded to 1,179 calls in 2016.

The 2017 budget of $933,000 meant $77 per person.

The 2018 budget of $1,322,776 will mean a per person ambulance service cost of $109.

Last modified Sept. 7, 2017

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