By Rebecca McCutcheon
Winfield Courier – Feb. 28, 2014
William Newton Hospital leadership met with Winfield city commissioners Thursday to request formally that the city take over management of Winfield Area Emergency Medical Service from the hospital. The change will go into effect July 1.
William Newton Hospital CEO Ben Quinton and WNH board of trustees president Tom Herlocker spoke to commissioners.
According to Herlocker, the hospital board will work with the commission and the city any way it can to make the transition as smooth as possible. The WAEMS garage at WNH will remain available to the city to house WAEMS vehicles, Herlocker said.
The transition will make WAEMS operations more efficient and ensure the service remains financially viable, while continuing to provide excellent emergency care, according to a joint press release issued by hospital and city officials. Hospital management, WAEMS and city leaders will keep working together to ensure a seamless transition of services.
Mayor Greg Thompson said preparing to take on WAEMS management has been challenging, but he thinks the city is at a point where it can make the transition successfully.
City manager Warren Porter said the overriding concern for city staff, hospital staff and the governing bodies of both entities is maintaining the quality of emergency medical service care.
“There will be a lot of change and discomfort at times, but the goal is that the patient won’t know the difference,” Porter said.
“It makes a lot of sense to do this, and we appreciate the cooperation we’ve had with Warren and his team working on this together,” said Quinton.
Once services are consolidated, WAEMS will be housed in the Winfield Fire Department building. All current Winfield firefighters are also EMT-certified. The city will also retain as many WAEMS paramedics as possible. The service will be overseen temporarily by Winfield Fire Chief Alan Stoll until a medical coordinator position can be established within the fire department to manage EMS, according to a previous Courier article.
Officials have been working to get the city proper credentials to operate an EMS service, including licensing by the Kansas Board of Emergency Medical Services and authorization to handle Medicaid and Medicare payments. Porter said in a previous Courier article that obtaining these authorizations should not be a problem for the city.
One issue with consolidation is staffing, including encouraging current paramedics to work for the city and making sure their pay and benefits as city employees mesh with what they have previously received. Another issue is finding space for ambulances and equipment, since there is not enough room at the fire department for the entire WAEMS fleet.
Most likely one ambulance would be located at the fire station and one at the hospital, with the remaining two in storage as they are now, Porter said previously. A possible firehouse expansion would have to be part of a long-term plan, as it is still too early to determine if one is needed, Porter said earlier.
Funding for WAEMS is provided by both the City of Winfield and Cowley County. The county gives the money to the city and the city gives it to EMS. The city is required to have an ambulance service.
Gwen Romine, KSFFA Webmaster