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  • Last modified 82 days ago (Aug. 31, 2017)

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We’re being taken for a ride

Forget the brouhaha about whether a county commissioner is micromanaging the county’s ambulance system and potentially chasing away EMTs. She might well be, but her motive is pure. To anyone who actually does any research on the topic, it’s clear Marion County is being taken for a ride by state and possibly local ambulance bureaucrats.

The soaring cost of operating county ambulances is not just a matter of having fewer volunteers – a problem statewide for years. It’s a problem with how bureaucrats are interpreting laws and regulations to needlessly expand their fiefdoms.

At issue is the supposed need for two highly certified attendants on each ambulance run. That rule defies all logic. Drivers are too busy driving to provide medical services. It also does not exist. State law (KSA 65-6135) requires that only one person on each ambulance be certified as an EMT or above. Even state administrative regulations (KAR 109-2-7) do not seem to require that both attendants have minimal status as EMTs.

Regulations do require two attendants, but they say that only one must be certified as an EMT or above. Advanced certification is required on certain types of calls. However, even in those cases, a crew with only one regular EMT can provide the same service when in contact by radio or telephone with a physician or authorized nurse. We’ve already spent a ton of money installing a system that allows just that.

So where does this myth about needing two EMTs come from? Perhaps is the result of a complaint a few years ago when a highly certified EMT in another county had no driver and asked her husband to drive for her in an emergency. It wasn’t that he was not an EMT. It’s that he wasn’t on a previously submitted list of attendants.

Many states (New Mexico and Kentucky, for example) require some sort of certification for drivers, but certification can be that of only an emergency medical responder, like the county’s first responders, many of whom are volunteer firefighters. Kansas law doesn’t even appear to require that.

If some board somewhere – either locally or at the state level – seems to be insisting otherwise, it really needs to go back and re-read the statutes and administrative regulations.

To be certified at the highest level, some types of ambulances and runs may require two EMTs. But county ambulances aren’t required to be certified at the highest level to accomplish the vast majority of runs. But even if they are certified at that level, the requirement is not that two EMTs or better be assigned to every run, only that two be available for a very small handful of runs that require them.

Too often we get caught up in debates over personalities and methods of elected officials when, in fact, it’s bureaucrats who are at the root of problems. Rather than blame politicians who are trying to drain the swamp, it’s time for elected officials to stop taking everything bureaucrats say as gospel and giving them everything they want when, in fact, they may be carefully phrasing their requests in potentially misleading ways so as to maximize the staffing and funding for their operations.

We could, of course, be wrong, and somehow the bureaucrats have managed to put into place regulations that clearly go beyond the intent of laws approved by the legislature. If so, our state legislators need to close whatever loopholes they left, or our county and others need to unite to take the bureaucrats to court to stop them from overstepping their bounds.

What we don’t need to do is blame one commissioner for questioning a budget that on its face seems laughable — needlessly feathering the nest of county employees or, perhaps, intentionally creating extra revenue that one of her colleagues covets in what likely will be an attempt to add yet another costly, and (as data prove) unneeded full-time ambulance service within his district.

This is the type of swamp we need to start draining if we’re ever going to bring back rational government and get rid of bureaucratic and political maneuvering that ends up swelling our taxes while doing very little to actually improve governmental services.

  • Eric Meyer

Last modified Aug. 31, 2017

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