County commissioners fired paramedic Larry Larsen from Peabody’s ambulance crew Monday.
An unscheduled executive session was tacked on to the published agenda, and Larsen was summoned to appear along with county attorney Susan Robson.
The session lasted five minutes, after which Larsen was fired from the ambulance crew and also from a deputy coroner appointment he held.
County commissioners Dan Holub and Randy Dallke declined to provide any reasons why Larsen was fired. They cited confidentiality of personnel actions.
Larsen, who is also the mayor of Peabody, said afterward that he did not receive any specific reasons as to why he was terminated.
“When I asked what I had done wrong, I was told, ‘We’re not going to banter that around, and you know what this is all about,’” Larsen said.
EMS director Brandy McCarty said she learned of Larsen’s dismissal around 2:45 p.m., shortly after commissioners adjourned.
The dismissal is the latest in a series of EMS issues that began when Steve Smith was dismissed as director in June 2014.
“It’s been flailing, stuff flying around, ever since Smith went away,” Holub said. “We think we have a handle on it, then something comes up.”
After unsuccessful attempts to hire a seasoned EMS professional as Smith’s replacement, commissioners abruptly reconfigured the position to focus on daily operational logistics, and hired McCarty, a local EMT with two years of volunteer EMS experience.
A new EMS medical advisory board was created. Physician Paige Dodson was named medical director, but she stepped down a few months later, and physician Don Hodson replaced her.
Commissioners forced Tampa EMS crew chief Jesse Brunner to resign in March. His successor, Ron Mueller, resigned at the end of September.
Announcing his dismissal Monday evening at a Peabody City Council meeting, Larsen redirected attention to McCarty, alleging that she faced possible disciplinary action from the Kansas Board of Emergency Medical Services.
He confirmed Tuesday that he had filed a complaint with the board against McCarty.
“What I simply did was turn her in to the state EMS board for practices outside her current licensure,” Larsen said.
Larsen also alleged that other EMTs were affected by McCarty’s actions.
“She did contribute firsthand to other EMTs operating out of their current certifications,” Larsen said.
He made no statements suggesting he was fired in retribution for his complaints. Holub said any such suggestion would be wrong.
“If he’s trying to make the point that’s why we did what we did, it’s absolutely false,” Holub said.
Without disclosing specifics, Holub said the decision to fire Larsen was based on solid evidence.
“If it wasn’t, I’d have never done it,” he said. “This didn’t happen overnight. It’s been a long process. I’m confident I can sleep at night knowing I did the right thing.”
Asked to comment on Larsen’s allegations, McCarty acknowledged she had made mistakes related to an advanced EMT course she took before becoming EMS director.
During her training period she was allowed to do procedures normally restricted to advanced EMTs while supervised by a qualified advanced EMT or paramedic. She said she continued doing such procedures beyond the end of the class, which constituted a violation because she had not yet been certified.
“I worked out of the scope of practice, beyond the time of the class stopping,” McCarty said. “I worked under the same preceptors, Larry being one of them. My preceptors were not aware of the stop dates and did not inform me of that. I should have taken the initiative to research and find out when I should have stopped. That was my responsibility.”
McCarty declined to comment on Larsen’s dismissal.
“I’m not going to talk about Larry because it wouldn’t be fair to him,” she said. “I only wish him the best in his plans for the future. He’s an awesome tech.”
After being informed of Larsen’s dismissal, McCarty, advisory board chair Gene Winkler, and EMT Shannon James drove to Peabody to transfer the ambulance there to Marion.
“The ambulance was yanked because they had to get the meds out,” Holub said. “Larsen was a paramedic, and there were medications on board.”
Only paramedics are allowed to administer the medications involved, and Larsen was the only paramedic on the Peabody crew.
A routine inventory also is being conducted, McCarty said.
Before the ambulance left Peabody, McCarty said Winkler posted a sign on the garage door. It read as follows:
“Peabody Ambulance will No Longer Be Stationed in Peabody.
“First responder status only.
“For additional information contact: Susan Robinson (sic) 620-382-2243”
The wording, coupled with Larsen’s dismissal, led some Peabody residents to believe the ambulance was being permanently removed. A petition drive to restore Peabody’s ambulance service was initiated and promoted through social media, where many negative comments criticizing the assumed removal were posted.
Holub said the sign was a “poor choice of words” and that commissioners were committed to keeping an ambulance in Peabody.
Tuesday morning, an ambulance was back in Peabody. The Marion backup ambulance was stationed there. McCarty said the move was temporary, and that the Peabody ambulance should be “back in a week” after inventory was completed.
“There was never any idea of not having a service in Peabody, never ever,” she said.
However, with the loss of Larsen, Peabody EMS has only one advanced EMT and one regular EMT on active status, and both of whom work full-time jobs, McCarty said. Three first responders, who are not certified to transport patients, also are part of the crew.
Paramedics, like Larsen, and advanced EMTs are necessary for advanced life support measures often needed while transporting patients to out-of-county hospitals.
With Larsen gone, Peabody’s ability to provide a certified team for patient transportation is restricted to when the EMT and advanced EMT can be scheduled at the same time.
For the time being, Peabody EMS is on first responder status, McCarty said.
“Peabody will respond to a scene with a fully stocked ambulance and first responders,” she said. “The only difference will be that a transporting unit will come from Marion, Florence, or Hillsboro if there is not a full-staffed crew for that ambulance.”
Peabody EMS had hoped to have five more EMTs on board after Peabody Community Foundation paid the fees for five people to take an EMT certification course. EMT Lindsay Hutchison is the only one to become certified thus far.