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  • Last modified 35 days ago (May 18, 2017)

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EMT shortage protested

But few problems apparent on first days with no crew

Staff writer

Hillsboro officials on Monday expanded their public campaign for more ambulance staffing in Hillsboro when a contingent of 10 community members appeared before the county commission.

However, with one-third of the days when Hillsboro’s ambulance will not be staffed this month already having passed, no significant problems have been noted. On one of the days, there were no calls in the Hillsboro area. On another day, the only call was an inter-hospital transfer handled by another county ambulance.

The third day involved a more serious situation — a possible heart attack three miles north of town.

Marion’s ambulance already was tied up on another call, so Tampa’s ambulance had to be dispatched. However, an off-duty EMT in Hillsboro heard the call and responded with an ambulance, providing on-site attention until the Tampa ambulance arrived 12 minutes later.

At Monday’s meeting, four members of Hillsboro Development Corporation, the school superintendent, two representatives of Hillsboro Community Hospital, the mayor, the city administrator, and a community resident all appeared to protest the number of days in May that two emergency medical technicians will not be on duty in Hillsboro.

Lyman Adams, president of HDC, read a letter outlining concerns.

“We are greatly concerned for the health and safety of various groups of our population due to inadequate ambulance service in the Hillsboro area,” he read. “Some are especially vulnerable because of a high potential for needing emergency services.”

Residents of retirement and nursing homes, manufacturing employees, and students preschool through college taking part in athletic activities are considered most vulnerable.

“We hereby respectfully voice our support for full-time ambulance service to be located in the city of Hillsboro,” Adams said. “We understand that finding qualified personnel and sufficient funding is not an easy task. However, with the potential of lives being in jeopardy due to long wait times for ambulances to arrive on scene, we believe it is crucial to remedy this situation as soon as possible.”

Commission chair Randy Dallke asked whether the group was aware of everything being done to improve ambulance services.

“The volunteers in our county are really down,” Dallke said.

All but one of six full-time employees approved for this year have been hired. More hirings are planned in January.

“We are trying to get people hired. I’m not going to hire just anybody who walks in our door,” emergency medical director Ed Debesis said. “We have done interviews; I have turned away some people.”

The nine days of May 6, 10, 13, 15, 18, 19, 21, 22, and 31 were not scheduled to have a full-time staff members on duty in Hillsboro. In June, Debesis said, only one day will not have full-time staff in Hillsboro.

Debesis said Peabody, Florence and Tampa were having the same issue as Hillsboro.

“The concerns the community has are nine days uncovered in the ambulance crew in the month of May,” Hillsboro city administrator Larry Paine said. “People here deserve to have a quality response in the ambulance.”

Debesis said having ambulances available nearby fulfills state requirements.

“I’m meeting state regs,” Debesis said. “They don’t like it, but there’s nothing we can do about it.”

In other ambulance calls related to Hillsboro so far this month, Hillsboro ambulance twice transferred patients from Hillsboro Community Hospital to out-of-town hospitals. Hillsboro ambulance took a seizure victim to HCH, transferred a patient from Salem Home to HCH, and took an accident victim to a Wichita hospital. Other calls did not result in patients being taken to a hospital. Even on days when Hillsboro ambulance was staffed, Marion ambulance was needed for two calls.

Hillsboro mayor Delores Dalke said commissioner Kent Becker told her after the meeting that another ambulance employee would be hired in the near future.

Commissioner Dianne Novak confirmed that Debesis agreed during an executive session to make a hiring decision promptly.

“We’re going to be pleased that we’re going to have one more person because every person makes a great difference,” Dalke said.

Last modified May 18, 2017

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