The Marion County Commissioners were put on the spot Monday during their regular meeting when St. Luke CEO Jeremy Ensey spoke with them regarding the topic of county emergency medical services (EMS) and hospital transfers. The board had previously discussed these topics in a May 16 meeting and indicated to EMS Director Travis Parmley to follow the policy in place and place 911 calls as priority over transfer calls from county hospitals.
Ensey started out his presentation saying that he was not looking to place blame but hoping to continue to work with Parmley and begin to find a solution to the problem both sides find themselves in.
Ensey took issues with several comments made by both commissioners and Parmley from that meeting pointing out the incorrect facts in their statements. He gave multiple examples of transfers that were emergencies and how patients had lost needed hospital placements for life-saving measures causing his staff to need to make alternate plans.
He explained that the medical field is currently dealing with a huge shortage of nurses and stated that Wesley Medical Center in Wichita is currently trying to hire 250-300 nurses. The lack of nurses is a nationwide crisis that we are also seeing here in Marion County.
He said that is one of the reasons they sometimes have to transfer patients as well as a lack of beds and the fact that they don’t have an ICU or pulmonologists. Ensey said he believes they give good care to the patients who come in and when they cannot care for them, they have to transfer them somewhere that can.
“The number one priority is to save their life if we can and transfers come second but when the hospital calls for a transfer it is an emergency,” said Ensey.
He also referenced to when one of the commissioners stated that they have had a policy in place regarding transfers since 2019 but pointed out that it’s not 2019 anymore and much has changed.
“I also heard it said that other county’s EMS could be called to help our hospital, but do other county’s call our EMS to help them? Why are we calling them then and not returning the favor?” asked Ensey.
Ensey said he felt that the board has put Travis Parmley in a difficult position of trying to make him decide what is emergent and what is not.
“What about listening to the ER provider who is already with the patient and has already examined them? And spoken to the receiving physician at another hospital?” Ensey asked.
After Ensey was done speaking, it was quiet in the room and no one spoke or asked questions. Eventually Parmley did respond.
Parmley said, “A lot of what Jeremy said is true. There is a lot of moving parts. The only question I heard is do we go to other counties and right around 20 times we went to other counties last year. Jeremy and I have worked together. There are times I have sent both full time trucks out, and it leaves me without a truck. Jeremy and I have hashed this out many times. If we want to go to Kansas City on a regular basis, if that’s what the commission wants us to do, just know when that truck is gone for 7 or 8 hours, when the other one is gone to Wichita, then we don’t have anything else. It takes a while for another truck to get back into our county.”
The commissioners and Parmley talked more about options without making any decisions. The commission encouraged Parmley to get some statistics and examples of various transfers for the past several years.
“The determination is up to the providers. Our provider is talking to their provider and they need to decide, not Travis (Parmley),” said Ensey.
In other business, the board:
n heard from Aulne residents regarding road concerns. Eugene Just and Rod Just spoke about the state of the roads on 140th and Sunflower. Both asked if the road could be torn up at some point and repaved as it has become dangerous for farmers. The commissioners told them the priority right now is safety which means getting rock on it and covering the potholes.
n listened to a budget presentation from the 8th Judicial District
n met in executive session for a department head review of Krista Schneider. No action was taken.
n heard a presentation from Sheriff Jeff Soyez regarding a request for radio upgrades. The hope is that with a new radio system, calls can be heard better and can be recorded so that they can be monitored better. Soyez explained that if firefighters can’t hear as well as they should, it is a liability. He also explained that due to multiple events happening at once, dispatch has had to assign fire admin channels that are not monitored. Soyez asked that they purchase three used 800 Mhz radios as well as other equipment for a total of $12,991.00. The board approved purchase not to exceed $13,000.00
n heard department business from County Engineer Brice Goebel