Newton Kansan – February 28, 2017
About a week ago the city of Sedgwick announced the end of EMS services, as the expense of maintaining a department and a lack of staff led the city council to relinquish the city’s EMS permit to the state, effective March 1.
After that announcement, county administration began meeting with other cities and Emergency Preparedness officials to try and find an solution.
Monday night, the Halstead City Council offered up on solution — albeit temporary.
By unanimous vote, the Halstead City Council agreed to extend a temporary offer to provide EMS services to the city of Sedgwick. The agreement will provide service to residents both in the city, as well as the surrounding rural areas, until June 30.
“The reality is that Halstead will most likely be responding to these calls anyways without an agreement in place, as those affected will still be able to call 911,” said Ethan Reimer, city administrator for Halstead. “Trying to ensure that people still receive some response in a timely manner is simply the right thing to do, but we also have a responsibility to our residents to ensure they are not paying for service to be provided to another city. This agreement allows us to help out our neighbors but ensures that Halstead residents will not be on the hook financially for responding to the Sedgwick area.”
Halstead is waiting to hear whether Sedgwick approves the agreement.
Halstead previously had entered into a temporary agreement to serve as back-up for Sedgwick EMS when Sedgwick experienced staffing troubles in 2015. Newton Fire/EMS served as a third option during that time. Throughout that agreement, Sedgwick was paying outside departments per initial primary response for which there was no acknowledgment or response from Sedgwick.
“We have enjoyed a long history of working together with the City of Sedgwick on other issues that affect both our communities,” said Mayor Bill Ewert, “we would hope that Sedgwick would be willing to help us out if the situation were reversed.”
According to Halstead city officials, Halstead has already seen an uptick in calls that involve response to Sedgwick prior to Sedgwick relinquishing its license.
The agreement approved by the city of Halstead is not subject to renewal or extension beyond June 30.
The issue forced the Sedgwick city council to address the future of EMS services multiple times during the year and led to increases in on-call and per run pay for Sedgwick EMS staff. Sedgwick hired a full time director for EMS services in October of 2016, Jennifer Cisneros. She began the task of turning around the service. She was faced with staffing issues — namely a lack of volunteers.
Prior to that director taking over on Oct. 17, 2016, the city had 70-plus calls where outside agencies were responding. Between October and December of 2017, outside agencies responded to just three calls in Sedgwick.
However, the director left the department in February 2017.
This is not the first time Sedgwick has been without a dedicated EMS service. From 1981 to 1984 the city had no EMS service.
The county levies taxes for EMS services, and then distributes those to municipalities throughout the county. Because the county levies that tax, the county bears responsibility to ensure services are available.
However, according to county officials, what the responsibility is under state statute is unclear. In this case the county facilitiated discussions with other municipalities to try and make sure Sedgiwick residents had access to EMS services. The county is not responsible to create its own service or offer direct services to residents.
Harvey County recently sent a quarterly payment to Sedgwick for $8,973.69. Annually, the county sends more than $35,890.
Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
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