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County taken to task for crash response

Staff writer

Marion County Commissioner Randy Dallke wants to modify Marion County practices on medical emergencies occurring near county borders.

He planned a meeting with the commission and Emergency Management Director Dan D’Albini, Communications Director Linda Klenda, and Marion County Emergency Medical Services Director Steve Smith for Monday.

He also told D’Albini on Monday to pass out a letter from Theresa Kasten of Herington to every dispatcher and department director.

Kasten is the mother of Seth Biehler, 17, who was in a truck involved in a head-on collision with a passenger car Aug. 10 on U.S. 77. The accident was about four miles south of Herington, but Kasten wrote that Marion County Emergency Services were the first ambulances contacted to respond. Emergency vehicles from Marion and Tampa took nearly 20 minutes to reach the scene, Dallke said.

Two passengers in the car died as a result of the accident.

Kasten wondered why Herington or Dickinson County was not contacted and she spoke with Herington’s Fire Chief Ken Staatz. Her son called her after calling 911, but she arrived at the accident before any ambulances.

“I followed up with Fire Chief Staatz on Monday (Aug. 13) and was mortified to hear the reason behind all this was not human error, but policies put in place by your commission making everything in Marion County as your territory no matter which agency was closer,” Kasten wrote in the letter.

Dallke said that there is not a policy in place that forbids dispatchers from contacting Emergency Medical Services from other counties to assist with accidents in Marion County. He cited that the Florence ambulance routinely drives into Chase County on calls. He added that Harvey County has often responded to incidents in Goessel.

However, Dallke said it is the practice of Marion County dispatchers to call within the county first, regardless of proximity. He said it is what they are trained to do.

“If there is not a policy in place then there should be,” Kasten wrote Monday. “It is inexcusable to delay emergency services to anybody. Somebody somewhere has made the decision to ultimately put lives at risk and they need to be held accountable.”

Dallke aims to modify this training not only to contact the closest available EMS provider in a serious case but to also expand the radius of responders inside the county. The accident on Aug. 10 involved eight people, four in each vehicle. With an accident that large, Dallke said it would be advantageous to have ambulances arrive from Florence or Hillsboro.

“The more the merrier and when they are not needed they go home,” Dallke said. “This is about patient care.”

Dallke said he planned to arrange meetings with Dickinson County Commission and Herington officials to discuss a possible interlocal agreement after the issue is discussed in detail at the commission meeting on Aug. 27.

Last modified Aug. 23, 2012

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