Archive for Thursday, July 5, 2007

City Council accepts EMS agreement

July 5, 2007

It appears the Eudora Emergency Medical Service will have a new local supervisor and a new name.

The Eudora City Council voted in a special meeting Monday to enter into an interlocal agreement with the Douglas County Commission to oversee the personnel responsibilities of the first responder unit.

Funding for the Eudora Community EMS will be split between the city and county.

Although Douglas County Commissioners were present during the meeting, the commission decided to delay action until its official meeting Monday. It will return before the commission as a consent item.

The service covers Eudora City, Eudora Township and parts of Palmyra Township.

Under the new agreement, the group will be known as Eudora Community EMS and will be overseen by Eudora City Fire Chief Randy Ates. During discussion, Eudora City Administrator Cheryl Beatty told the council and commission Ates' position as fire chief was coincidental.

In the agreement, the Eudora Community EMS will remain under the umbrella of Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical.

According to the agreement, Ates will direct the group under two complementary sets of rules. He will oversee general management of the group and offer a full-time presence to continue professional development of the EMS members.

All medical oversight and the creation of standard operating procedures will remain the responsibility of Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical.

"I think it's an opportunity for the system to get better," Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical Director Scott Robinson said.

Before the agreement, Robinson had expressed doubts about the quality of care provided by the service.

Those concerns were part of the reason county officials were so receptive to the city's offer of taking over supervision of the program earlier in the year, County Administrator Craig Weinaug said.

The council had discussions about the agreement before opening the floor to the public.

"I'm in support of this agreement. I don't see a lot of downside," Eudora City Councilman Jeff Peterson said.

Although the transition might be rough, the agreement would be the best thing for the citizens, Peterson said.

"I think it's the right thing to do to continue to move forward," he said.

An earlier draft of the plan included the Eudora Township Board of Trustees.

The township paid insurance on the emergency vehicles under the old agreement.

Under the new agreement, the county will pick up the cost of insurance.

Although Eudora Township decided not to enter into the agreement, representatives from the township and Eudora EMS attended the discussion.

Eudora Township firefighter and Eudora EMS member Dustin McAfee spoke on their behalf.

McAfee presented a plan drafted by the Eudora Township Fire Department to the city council and the commission.

"We think both communities would be best served by the jurisdictional fire departments," McAfee said.

He mentioned the township firefighters' extensive knowledge of the area and an opportunity to reduce jurisdictional confusion as advantages of the plan.

During discussion, commissioner Jere McElhaney asked for the number of emergency medical calls each department received.

The city ran about 468 emergency calls last year, Ates said. He estimated the township ran about a tenth of that.

"It's tricky when you get a new proposal in the midst of an ongoing negotiation, but maybe it has validity," commissioner Charles Jones said.

Jones asked for opinions on McAfee's proposal.

It's hard to compare the city and township based on the difference between the numbers of calls each received, commissioner Bob Johnson said.

"For me, the overriding issue is there's no way you can achieve efficiency at the level of 50 calls as opposed to the level of 500 calls," Johnson said.

Robinson supported the bilateral agreement.

"From my perspective, it's not a good idea to add more layers to a system that is already complicated enough," Robinson said.

Later in the discussion, Eudora Mayor Tom Pyle said he didn't see a difference in who led the group as long as each member of the service did what they were trained to do.

Before making a decision, the council and commission heard from Dan Gregg.

Gregg is a former city council member and spoke on behalf of Eudora EMS Director Sarah Nordin.

"She's reviewed the agreement and is in strong support of it," Gregg said.

Gregg predicted the agreement would make the service better and help provide a better level of care for the citizens.

"I encourage everyone to sign this agreement and I am in support of it," Gregg said.

The council voted unanimously to enter into the agreement.

The county and commission agreed to re-evaluate the agreement after a year.

Afterward, McAfee said he had concerns about whether all township members would be accepted into the Eudora Community EMS.

"I don't think any of us should have to reapply," McAfee said.

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