County commission hears EMS concerns




Garden City resident Nancy Wilken expressed concern during Monday's Finney County Commission meeting about Finney County EMS not providing an out-of-county transport to Wichita for her husband in March.

Wilken said she took her husband, Harold, to the emergency room at St. Catherine Hospital on March 23 due to stroke symptoms including droopy mouth, trouble speaking and right hand numbness.

After running tests, local doctors determined Wilken had a brain bleed and recommended he see a neurologist and neurosurgeon as soon as possible in Wichita. EagleMed air ambulance wasn't available due to ice on the wings, so the hospital contacted county EMS but were told an ambulance was unavailable due to a forecast of poor weather conditions.

The Wilkens ended up driving to the hospital in Wichita themselves. Nancy Wilken said roads were clear that day, and she questioned why EMS would not transport her husband.

"I feel like the EMS service failed us," she said. "There was nothing going on with the roads. There was no high wind, no ice or snow. The roads weren't bad. I don't know why we were denied."

Wilken told the commission she wanted to prevent something like her situation from happening again.

Joe Hopkins, EMS director, indicated transfer decisions largely depend on unit availability. On the day in question, Hopkins said, there was a winter weather warning in effect until the afternoon, which then switched to a weather advisory. Due to concern about the weather, a field training officer made a judgment call about the transport.

Commissioner Dave Jones said the responsibility of EMS is to get patients from the point of illness or injury to the local hospital.

It doesn't have a responsibility to provide transports from St. Catherine to other hospitals, though EMS does do that when it can. he said.

"I understand your concern," Jones said. "But you can't have all the resources in Wichita on transfers. You've got to have something available for the next call. Please understand that up until now we have not felt it was our duty to absolutely guarantee a transfer from St. Catherine to another hospital."

By consensus, the commission asked Hopkins and Randy Partington, county administrator, to talk to the hospital about the possibility of a better, more practical way to deal with transfers.

In other business Monday:

* Commissioners heard 2014 budget requests from Court Appointed Special Advocates — CASA, Finney County Committee on Aging and Finney County Economic Development Corp.

CASA requested $13,275, an increase from $10,000 budgeted this year. The Committee on Aging requested $380,000, up from $330,000; and FCEDC is seeking $145,000, up from $118,000.

Commissioners took the requests under advisement and will consider all requests when they begin working on the 2014 budget over the summer.

* Commissioners agreed to provide up to $2,089 through June to help efforts to prevent the listing of the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species.

In February, commissioners adopted a resolution opposed to listing the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is soliciting public input before making a final listing determination by Sept. 30.

James Carlson, of Stillwater Technical Services, has been involved in preparing of a Natural Resources Coordination Plan for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He said the plan is going to essentially tell the federal government that before it takes action on listing the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species, it needs to communicate with local county commissioners first.

In addition, the NRCP will focus on the lack of data, information, studies and impact assessments in the fish and wildlife listing process, and will propose that assessments of cultural, economic and social cohesiveness impacts to communities be documented prior to any listing.

Around 20 Kansas counties have signed up with Carlson's organization. He said he expects to complete the plan by August in advance of the September decision by the fish and wildlife service.

* Commissioners took no issue with a plan by the Finney County Public Library to use money in a boiler replacement fund as needed so the library's Nature Explore project, an outdoor learning environment for children, can begin this year.

The library has raised $253,000 for the project since last August and needs $310,000 to begin construction. More than $58,000 is available from the boiler fund, which will be reimbursed with future allocations from the library's Wampler endowment fund and/or other donations designated for the project.

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