• Last modified 706 days ago (July 7, 2022)


County nearly runs out of ambulances

Staff writers

Marion County ambulances came perilously close Saturday night to a recently discussed doomsday scenario when a 2-year-old on S. Kennedy St. was having trouble breathing but one ambulance had no staffing and two others were on calls out of the county.

At 8:47 p.m., dispatchers received a call about a 34-year-old man who fell from a bed and pulled a TV stand on top of him at Hilltop Manor in Marion.

Marion ambulance was assigned the call three minutes later at 8:51 p.m. Half an hour after that, at 9:25 p.m., it began transporting the patient on a non-emergency basis.

Personnel at nearby St. Luke Hospital in Marion remained in touch with the ambulance via cell phone, but rather than head to St. Luke, the ambulance headed directly to NMC Health, formerly Newton Medical Center, arriving at 10:05 p.m.

Even before the ambulance left Marion, Hillsboro ambulance was sent to St. Luke at 9:06 p.m. for what later was billed as an emergency transfer of a different patient.

The patient, apparently not brought in by ambulance, was to be transferred from St. Luke to Ascension Via Christi St. Francis Hospital in Wichita.

That patient had an irregular heartbeat, emergency medical services director Travis Parmley said.

Hillsboro ambulance arrived at 9:22 p.m., while Marion ambulance still was at Hilltop Manor.

After some confusion over how to get into the hospital, Hillsboro ambulance attendants waited more than an hour to leave with the patient at 10:36 p.m. No reason for the delay was offered on monitored radio transmissions.

Marion ambulance, meanwhile, remained at NMC until almost that time — 10:31 p.m., when it left to return to Marion County nearly an hour after it had departed.

In the middle of all of this, at 10:28 p.m., dispatchers had to send Peabody ambulance and Hillsboro firefighters to the 300 block of S. Kennedy St. in Hillsboro on a “delta” priority call.

“Delta” calls normally require both an ambulance staffed by a paramedic plus an additional advanced paramedic.

The call was for a 2-year-old having trouble crying between breaths.

Tampa ambulance was unavailable because no emergency medical technicians were on duty there.

Florence ambulance no longer is certified to transport patients. No additional technicians were available to staff the county’s backup ambulance, which used to be kept in Marion and now is kept in Hillsboro.

That meant all county ambulances simultaneously were unavailable for any additional call that might have come in, and Peabody ambulance — at least 20 minutes away — was the nearest ambulance available to respond to a frightening emergency in Hillsboro.

Hillsboro’s fire chief, a trained emergency medical technician, was among the first on the scene with the 2-year-old in Hillsboro.

At 10:34 p.m., just five minutes after the call, he radioed that the child was doing better and that parents would be taking the child to a hospital themselves.

The call to Peabody ambulance was canceled, and an impromptu effort by two off-duty ambulance attendants in the northern part of the county to go to Tampa and staff the ambulance there in case of additional emergencies was called off.

Peabody ambulance remained the sole ambulance available within the county for some time. Marion ambulance returned to its quarters at 11:18 p.m.; Hillsboro ambulance, at 1:13 a.m.

Parmley said it would be beneficial if the department had another staffed ambulance available for times like Saturday’s scenario.

“The county is 11,652 people and almost 900 square miles,” Parmley said. “Our goal is to provide EMS when somebody calls 911. The challenge is paying for that — the challenge is paying employees.”

Parmley said he wished there were more transport companies that would take patients from Marion County to larger hospitals.

Finding a way to provide more service is on his radar screen, he said.

“Unfortunately we don’t have an ambulance in every town,” Parmley said. “Peabody and Tampa do a good job of helping when they can. Something got to give.”

Parmley said he didn’t want to take away from I don’t want to take away from volunteers who work to supplement full-time medical technicians.

“When we’re busy, we’re busy,” he said.

Another close call came four days earlier when at 2:10 p.m. June 28 an 81-year-old man fell eight feet at a farm on Pawnee Rd. south of the Marion/Dickinson County line.

He was taken by Marion ambulance to Salina Regional Health Center, and the ambulance was away from its station until 5:44 p.m.

Tampa ambulance, wrongly thought by dispatchers to have only a partial crew available, also responded to that call but did not transport the patient.

With Marion ambulance out of the county and Florence ambulance not staffed nor certified to transport patients, Hillsboro ambulance ended up being sent at 4:10 p.m. to a traffic accident 1½ miles northwest of Florence on US-77.

A vehicle had veered off the roadway and into trees that obscured it. The ambulance arrived 15 minutes after the initial dispatch. While en route, one of its medics asked that Peabody ambulance also be paged, although that later was deemed unnecessary, and then that Tampa ambulance be paged to stand by near Canada in case of additional calls.

Hillsboro ambulance took a patient with facial injuries to St. Luke, arriving at 4:52 p.m., and Tampa ambulance remained at Canada until 5:08 p.m. in case of additional calls.

Last modified July 7, 2022