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Task force to seek ambulance solution

Staff writer

Ongoing contention over county ambulances’ service transferring of patients to larger hospitals soon may be ironed out.

A committee of two medical providers, two commissioners, St. Luke Hospital chief executive Jeremy Ensey, and emergency medical services director Travis Parmley will sit down to discuss the matter within a week, commission chairman David Mueller said Monday.

“We would like to get the providers, the ambulance director, the CEO, and a couple of commissioners together to discuss the issues,” Mueller said. “The goal is to identify the problem, and second to resolve the problem.”

A social media post last month by a Marion woman apparently brought a simmering pot to a boil. Parmley told commissioners a month ago that there was “no truth” to a woman’s social media posting about delay in her husband being transferred to NMC Health, formerly Newton Medical Center.

Pam Maag, the woman who posted, “Why the f**k can’t we get an ambulance in Marion County!!” sent commissioners a letter detailing her experience the night of May 9 to 10.

She had taken her husband, Roger, to St. Luke’s emergency room at 10:20 p.m. He was examined and tested for an hour, then told he needed to be transported to a different hospital.

At midnight, arrangements were made for him to be admitted at Newton. Eight minutes after that, the hospital contacted a statewide patient transfer network, which in turn contacted county EMS for a transfer four minutes later.

EMS acknowledged the call and arrived eight minutes later to pick up the patient.

Maag’s timeline of events differs from emergency dispatches recorded by the newspaper on what time the ambulance left for Newton. Her timeline says Roger was discharged from the emergency room at 12:40 a.m. Emergency dispatches show the ambulance leaving the hospital at 12:35 a.m.

Ensey spoke to commissioners a week after Parmley to tell the hospital’s side of the story.

The hospital has had to hold patients because transfers were not available, Ensey said.

“This further delays definitive treatment for these patients,” Ensey said.

When the county has more than one ambulance available and a patient still is denied transport to a larger hospital, it’s a problem, Ensey said.

That was not the case with Maag’s transfer. No other ambulances were in use at the time.

When the subject was discussed at a commission meeting a month ago, Parmley said hospital staff members had said things to Pam Maag that aggravated her complaints about EMS.

Maag’s letter to commissioners appeared to bear out Parmley’s words.

She wrote: “I did overhear from the nurses’ desk that Marion EMS ‘will not take this transfer, as they are too tired!’

“The doctor came in several minutes later and advised that they were trying to figure out where they could locate a unit to do the transfer. Now, mind you, there was another patient in the room next to us that needed transferred to Hutchinson. I asked, ‘Would I be better to leave the ER against doctors orders, take him home or to Casey’s parking lot and call 911 and advise EMS we were a direct admit to NMC?’

“I was advised probably so as Marion EMS only wants to answer 911 calls. I am one of the few that knows what questions to ask and not be baffled by someone’s bulls---. I am very happy that the staff at the hospital was open and honest with us. We were also informed that the week or so before an EMS unit came out of Topeka for a transfer. I have also been enlightened that I needed to take my concerns to the commission, as many times all five ambulances are parked and the hospital has to search for an ambulance.

“Mr. Parmley has stated ‘Call a helicopter!!’ Really, for $30,000? This statement was sent to me via messenger from a very reliable source. This was also backed up by several others.”

A week ago, commissioner Kent Becker had a sometimes heated discussion with Parmley over comments he had heard from two physicians.

“(The physician’s) opinion is that when an attending physician and a hospital have an agreement to transfer, that needs to happen,” Becker said. “My own personal opinion is if we have a patient that needs transferred, we should do it.”

Parmley said he agreed when the patient was in critical condition, he or she should be transferred immediately.

“The reality is, when I’m seeing a critical transfer, we do it,” Parmley said. “If they’re going into a cath lab or a trauma surgeon, I’ll send them out. If it’s necessary, I will send all four trucks out — if it’s necessary.”

Less urgent transfers, however, may be delayed if ambulances are tied up on other calls so at least one remains available to handle unexpected emergencies.

“After listening to everybody and listening to the professionals, I don’t want a patient lying in the emergency room and needing to go to Wichita or somewhere,” Becker said. “Some of the perception is, if we still have an ambulance or two in Marion, why can’t we put a paramedic in it?”

Maag sat through all of Monday’s commission meeting and spoke to commissioners at the end. She said she’d been following the ongoing conversation.

“Transfers are bread and butter for a rural county,” she said. “When your EMS director tells you ‘my job is not transfers,’ that is not the way it works.”

She said she “just wanted everyone to be aware.”

Mueller told her the commission appreciated her coming and sitting patiently through the meeting.

In other business Monday, commissioners:

  • Delayed closing on the sale of the former Silk Salon building after getting an inspection report on the building’s condition.
  • Opened bids for security systems for the courthouse and the Rd. and Bridge department’s south shop, then postponed further discussion until June 27 because the cost of a security system for the shop was higher than expected.

Last modified June 23, 2022

 

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