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Commission considers ambulance downsizing

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A $10,600 engine repair estimate for the Florence ambulance morphed into a suggestion Tuesday by EMS Director Brandy McCarty to replace the ambulance with a smaller van-sized version to be used primarily for transfers.

“Right now we do more transfers than any other runs that we do,” McCarty told commissioners. “Last month we did 24, the month before 23. Between transfers and no-transports, which are refusals, those are our two highest categories.”

Keene Schaff of Osage Ambulances said the purpose of transfer models, which at around $90,000 are significantly cheaper than a new model of the kind the county uses, is different.

“These smaller ones are designed to be strictly transfer ambulances to run transfers between here and Wichita, or Salina, or whatever, with emergency backup capability,” Schaff said.

“What are we giving up, though?” Commissioner Dan Holub asked. “We have what we have for a reason, I assume. Is this going to limit us in any way on patient care?”

“I don’t think so,” McCarty said. “For the fact that during transfers you don’t need all that, your patient is ….”

“Yeah, but this thing is going to be used for more than transfer,” Holub interrupted. “How many times do we have everybody out and all of a sudden it’s the only thing in the county and we have a car wreck and injured people?”

McCarty deferred to Schaff.

“It’ll carry two backboards, it will carry a stair chair if you want it, and it will carry all your trauma kits,” Schaff said. “Anything you look at that’s stored in outside storage compartments, they aren’t there. There aren’t any outside compartments. There are just the cabinets, and the cabinets are only eight inches deep, not 18 inches. It’s a backup to your emergency use.”

Holub wasn’t convinced.

“The only thing that’s going to be available is this van, and we’ve got some big case with two or three injured, you don’t have adequate supplies because you have smaller compartments — I’m just a little nervous about that,” Holub said.

Marion Ambulance No. 2 is stationed in Florence while the Florence ambulance is down. McCarty said the Marion backup has the same problematic engine as the Florence ambulance. Where the Florence engine failed having run just 26,000 miles, the Marion ambulance has put over 100,000 miles on its engine.

“We know sooner or later we’re going to have to replace it,” she said.

Commissioner Randy Dallke asked if McCarty had contacted Ford customer service about warranty coverage for the Florence engine. McCarty said she confirmed there was no warranty coverage due to the age of the engine.

“If Ford can’t stand behind this at some better satisfaction than we’re getting today, I would like to not put Ford on our bid sheets for more vehicles for our sheriff’s department and our road and bridge department,” Dallke said. Commissioners passed a motion to send a letter of complaint to the Ford regional service center.

Another alternative McCarty presented was to take the ambulance treatment compartments from one or both vehicles with bad engines and remount those to new chassis. Included in the $85,000 price per vehicle is a complete rehabilitation of the compartments.

The commissioners made no decisions, but Dallke emphasized budget constraints have to be considered.

“Spending $100,000 for an ambulance, even on a remount, to put in some of these areas — I don’t want to take any ambulance out of anybody’s town,” Dallke said, “but that’s something we have to look at, spending $100,000 for 15 or 25 runs a year. It’s a tough decision to make.”

“We could simply make the changes Ford gave us the estimates on, and we could be back on the road,” McCarty said. “But what’s the next step?”

“That’s some of the decisions we have to make,” Dallke said.

Last modified April 2, 2015

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