Sabetha City Commission approves paramedic proposal
The Sabetha City Commission met at 6 p.m. Monday, March 11. Present were Mayor Doug Clark, City Commissioners Norm Schmitt, Nick Aberle, Maridel Wittmer and Julie Burenheide. Also present were City Administrator Doug Allen, Assistant City Administrator Bill Shroyer and City Clerk Steve Compo and guests Dr. James Longabaugh, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Director Doug Brammer and Cheri Key.
Longabaugh proposed adding a paramedic to the city staff. The paramedic would become an employee of the city, as the Sabetha EMS is owned by the city.
Longabaugh explained that currently, Sabetha uses paramedics out of Hiawatha, Holton or Seneca in an advanced life support transfer, but it is often difficult to get timely paramedic transports as the paramedics are often busy in their own communities. When a paramedic is unavailable, Sabetha Community Hospital will send a registered nurse, but that also becomes difficult as it pulls an RN from their duties at the hospital.
Potential Revenue Benefits
Longabaugh said the addition of a paramedic could bring potential revenue. Revenue could be achieved with the ability to charge for medical training courses held in Sabetha, SCH staffing savings, mutual assist with Brown and Nemaha county facilities and lower costs for ongoing training.
It is also possible that additional funding for the paramedic could be received from Nemaha County.
Budget Neutral Benefits
Several budget neutral benefits were discussed. Sabetha and surrounding communities could be served by having advanced procedures completed like airway and cardiac procedures, as well as the administration of additional medications.
Longabaugh said that Sabetha businesses have been understanding and generous with their employees who serve on the EMS by allowing them to leave work to respond to emergency situations. With the addition of a paramedic, current EMS staff would be able to stay at employment more often.
Longabaugh also sees the paramedic as being able to train both city and county law enforcement and businesses in CPR, “Stop the Bleed” and helicopter dispatch.
Longabaugh estimated that the initial start-up costs for adding a paramedic would approach $100,000. In subsequent years, the cost would decrease.
While the budget for the paramedic is not fully determined, he said to get the right person, the city would need to pay the person well.
In Kansas, the average paramedic salary is between $40,000 and $60,000 per year. Longabaugh advised that paying in the mid to higher range of that would be worthwhile to acquire the right individual for the position.
Since the paramedic would be educating people as well as responding to calls, Longabaugh suggested offering a stipend to teach the classes in addition to the salary.
Other expenses would be medical direction costs — including development of protocols, supervision, liability and scheduling. Additionally, it would be necessary to purchase additional equipment and medication that is not currently stocked.
The paramedic also would need a vehicle for rapid response and training.
Longabaugh said he expected there would be some non-financial drawbacks.
Adding a paramedic would change the chemistry of the current EMS. Having a full-time paramedic also would change the amount of hours for other staff. The idea of change may be difficult for some people.
“There might be some growing pains, but I still think it is for the greater good,” he said.
Duties that could be deferred to the paramedic could include maintenance, equipment stocking and rotation, monitoring of current staff continuing education hours, credentialing of staff and being a liaison to Level IV trauma center and regional trauma council.
Longabaugh said there are other duties that could be added to this list, too.
Longabaugh said he hoped organizations such as the Sabetha City Commission, Nemaha County Commission, SCH administration and staff, business owners, law enforcement and the school district would be supportive of this position.
Commissioners discussed the idea and asked a few questions. Commissioners asked if the paramedic would be on-call all the time. It is obviously not possible for one person to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Longabaugh said.
He hoped that outside of the scheduled time, that if the paramedic was in town, that he or she would respond anyway if available. He said it would be hoped that the paramedic also could receive a stipend for answering calls outside of their on-call times.
In the times when the Sabetha paramedic was unavailable, SCH would likely continue the practice of using other communities’ paramedics or sending RNs.
Commissioner Schmitt said he liked the idea, because it opens up an opportunity for local people who want to become a paramedic and to keep them here.
Commissioner Wittmer agreed, saying, “If we are going to continue to attract people back to Sabetha, why wouldn’t we do this?”
Commissioners approved the proposal and approved presenting it to the county commission.
Commissioners asked if Longabaugh would form a committee to determine how the paramedic would be integrated into the EMS, stipends and other items. Longabaugh will include some EMTs and other medical personnel on the committee. Mayor Clark appointed Commissioner Schmitt to serve on the committee as a city representative.
Also at the meeting:
City Administrator Allen advised commissioners that the Sabetha High School government class would be presenting projects to the commission on Wednesday, April 24.
Commissioners approved the following:
• Minutes from the Feb. 25 meeting;
• Wage Resolution No. 2019-04 for Jago Livengood;
• Fire Department applications for Tristen Edelman and Jarod Hartter;
• Spring burn dates of March 11 through May 6.
• Water Improvement Contract with Schwab Eaton;
• Truck bid of $55,377 for line crew;
The next regular meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, March 25.