28% of ambulance calls for naught

Nearly 28 percent of all county ambulance calls last month resulted in no patient being transported to a hospital, according to data released Monday by interim ambulance director JoAnn Knak.

A total of 24 patients for whom ambulances were summoned declined transport, thereby saving themselves ambulance fees.

Nine of the calls involved the county ambulance based in Peabody; 6, in Marion; 3 each in Hillsboro and with the backup ambulance normally based in Marion; 2, in Florence; and 1, in Tampa.

In addition, Peabody, Marion, and Tampa ambulances each were called out twice, and the Hillsboro ambulance once, for standby duty.

Ambulances transported 35 patients with medical emergencies, 9 injured in falls, 9 hurt in vehicular accidents, and 8 with cardiac complaints.

In addition, patients were transferred from one medical facility to another 19 times.

The Marion ambulance was the busiest, with 37 runs. Hillsboro had 30; Peabody, 24; Tampa, 8; the backup ambulance in Marion, 7; and Florence, 5.

First responders were sent out eight times — three times from Lincolnville, twice from Goessel and once each from Durham, Peabody, and Florence.

Raise for EMTs?

Ambulance attendants are paid according to the number and length of calls but also receive $2 an hour for being on call.

Knak seemed to get preliminary agreement from commissioners at a budget workshop last week to increase the on-call pay by a quarter, to $2.25 an hour.

Some emergency medical technicians spend as many as 500 hours a month on call, although Knak told commissioners Thursday that the annual total for on-call hours was 10,000, making the raise cost only $2,500 a year.

After one of three times in which county commissioners met, for 25 minutes total, behind closed doors Monday, they agreed to give a temporary $1.15 an hour raise to Jamie Shirley, office manager of the emergency medical service, while the county searches for a permanent director.

To date, commissioners have received eight applications for the position, which Knak also will review.

They also voted Monday to forgive $4,932.07 in uncollectible ambulance bills and learned that quick action by a Hillsboro car dealer prevented damage to the Hillsboro ambulance after the diesel-fueled vehicle was accidentally filed with unleaded gasoline. The problem was noted and the tank cleaned before the ambulance was started.

Other county raises

In other business Monday, commissioners gave a $17-a-month raise to Norman Goertz because he has begun operating transfer station equipment not normally within his pay grade.

Several other employees received scheduled raises for completing six months, one year, or five years on the job.

After their third executive session, Commission Chairman Roger Fleming disclosed that the topic had been a request from health administrator Dierdre Serene for a raise next year because of her dual role as a nurse and an administrator.

No action was taken. Serene later reviewed her department’s proposed budget with the commissioners, who will hammer their own budget proposal next Monday.

Pipeline safety

Commissioners also listened this Monday to a lengthy presentation from Jon Wickersham of TransCanada Pipeline about procedures the company would follow in case of a leak.

The pipeline is monitored round-the-clock from a center in Alberta, Canada, and six technicians are on call in this area. Some equipment is stationed in Wichita.

In general, evacuation might be needed within up to 1,000 feet downwind of any leak, Wickersham said.

A total of 590,000 barrels of oil traverse the county daily via TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline, he said. That’s more than 3 percent of all the oil consumed in the entire United States daily, he said.

Commissioners also voted to pay for $3,500 to replace a computer server damaged during a July 4 power failure and to spend $2,075.90 on two new computers with software for the department on aging.

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