County considers EMS changes
Director requirements and pay will likely increase
Emergency Medical Services advisory board members sent a clear message to commissioners at a joint meeting Nov. 10 to discuss revisions to the EMS director job description: Hire an experienced paramedic, and don’t settle for less.
Last year, commissioners compromised on established certification and experience requirements when they hired Brandy McCarty, a two-year EMT who had completed AEMT coursework but was not yet certified. Salary expectations for more-qualified candidates were beyond what commissioners were willing to pay.
McCarty, who submitted her resignation Nov. 9, urged commissioners to accept the recommended higher standard.
“You really need to raise that up a lot,” McCarty said. “What I’ve dealt with in a year, you can’t be an EMT or a new AEMT to do this job. I think we’re going to set ourselves up to fail if we don’t set our expectations high enough.”
Advisory board chairman Gene Winkler noted the position requirements had been reviewed after Steve Smith was fired as director in June 2014.
“Brandy was hired after this revision was done, and clearly she was not an AEMT and some of these other qualifications,” Winkler said. “You guys don’t need to rush into hiring somebody if they’re not qualified.”
Medical director Don Hodson also expressed support for increasing qualifications. As medical director, EMS operates under his physician’s license.
“I don’t think you can set the expectations for this job too high,” he said. “You don’t want a new kid in this job. It doesn’t work. You’ve got a lot of volunteers working for you that aren’t new kids.”
Advisory board member Lester Kaiser of Lincolnville said a new director should not go on routine ambulance runs.
“The director needs to be a director,” he said. “Monday through Friday, 8 to 5, they need to be in that office and not out taking calls. They have an office and a service to run.”
Other qualifications suggested include such things as more experience in EMS management and having trainer credentials.
Commissioners acknowledged they will need to significantly increase the director’s salary if they are to attract qualified candidates.
“You might get lucky, but you’re not going to get them cheap,” Commission Chairman Dan Holub said.
Commissioner Randy Dallke agreed.
“I think we may have to dig in the pocketbook a little more from this point forward,” he said. “The public needs to know that we may have to expand the budget to run the service.”
When McCarty resigned, she agreed to continue on a part-time basis until a new director was found.
Toward the end of the meeting, McCarty suggested commissioners create a new assistant director position which she said she would be interested in having.
“If I would, if you guys would hire a director for EMS, I could stay on functioning as an additional assistant,” McCarty said, “or help in the office, or wherever needed, for the function of the day-to-day business, to allow the director to do more research, have more training availability, more working with the board of EMS statutes and regulation, to do the director’s job.”
The EMS office has been staffed by a director and an office manager.
“Of course, that would be additional staff,” McCarty said. “I think I would stay on to do that.”
Hodson said the idea was worth considering.
“From my perspective, you’ve got two people doing a four-person job,” he said.
Holub said he would like to get more feedback from the advisory board.
Additional feedback also could come from a consultant the county may hire to evaluate the EMS department. Winkler introduced the idea, and support for it grew as the conversation turned to questions about the service’s future.
Dallke referred to an unnamed confidant in throwing his support behind a consultant.
“I’ve been conversing with a very informed person who said a consultant would be a good idea,” Dallke said. “Another text I had from this person is that Butler County is a good service to be modeled. I back that up a whole lot from what my resource says.”
Kaiser wasn’t sure Butler EMS would be a good fit.
“Nothing against Butler County, but they’re full time,” he said.
Winkler said a recently retired EMS director in Phillips County could be approached about consulting.
Advisory board member Arlen Busenitz of Burns said a benefit of brining in a consultant would be to let them do any “unpopular moves” before a new director came on board.
Winkler also told the group a service outside the county is interested in taking over advanced-life-support transfers originating from the county’s two hospitals. He said giving up ALS calls would keep ambulances in the county, and the service would bill patients and insurance.
“That’s all they would do,” he said. “That would be a headache off of us.”
McCarty said 48 ALS transfers had been made this year.
Clerk Tina Spencer was to revise the job description to reflect the group’s discussions and provide a draft to the advisory board to consider at a Nov. 24 meeting.
Last modified Nov. 16, 2015