Miami County Emergency Medical Services found itself without an ambulance in the county 126 times last year.
That’s something Miami County commissioners don’t want to have happen again.
The commissioners voted 5-0 at their Wednesday, July 3, meeting to approve a lease agreement for an ambulance station on Old Kansas City Road at Hillsdale, starting Jan. 1, 2020, in an attempt to alleviate a shortage of available units while also beefing up service in a growing area of the county.
“We have a term we use called ‘status zero,’ and that’s when we have no ambulance in the county,” EMS Chief David Ediger said.
The county’s three ambulances frequently are making transfers to out-of-county medical facilities which can create the potential for status zero. The ambulances are positioned between two stations, the primary location on Clover Drive south of Paola, and a second location in the Fire Department building on Metcalf Road at Louisburg where one ambulance is housed.
“Status zero is significant because what happens is if we get a call in Osawatomie or Fontana or whatever location, right now we depend on Johnson County Fire District No. 2 to provide an ambulance, and it might take a while to get one of our ambulances back,” Ediger said.
An ambulance often is gone for one hour or more when transferring a patient, depending on the location of the out-of-county hospital, road conditions and traffic, Ediger said.
EMS handled 3,553 calls in 2018, with 2,460 of them transfers, the chief said.
“We have three ambulances staffed 24/7, with advanced life support in every ambulance,” Ediger said. “All the ambulances are staffed with at least a paramedic and an EMT.”
That said, Ediger stressed the service is in need of a fourth ambulance and another station in the northern part of the county as growth from the metro area continues to migrate south from Johnson County.
Spring Hill’s population has swelled to more than 2,900 residents in Miami County, according to 2018 population estimates distributed at a recent commission study session. The city of Spring Hill has now topped 6,000 residents on both sides of the Miami-Johnson county line, and Louisburg in the northeast part of the county has surpassed the 4,500 population mark, topping Osawatomie (4,300) as the second largest community in the county behind Paola’s nearly 5,700 residents.
Not including the cost of a fourth unit, the ambulance station near the corner of Old Kansas City Road and West 255th Street will cost about $500,000 per year to maintain, County Administrator Shane Krull told county commissioners during their study session July 3.
Miami County EMS would add six personnel to staff the new station. Numbers provided by Financial Director Steve Lyman show salary and benefits for those six new employees would amount to about $440,339 per year, while the annual lease would total $32,500. Factoring incidentals, Krull said the county is looking at an annual cost of about $500,000.
The cost did not discourage commissioners from adding the station, with no one expressing opposition to the plan. Commissioners have discussed the possibility of adding a station for several months.
Commissioners have expressed concern about the need for an ambulance in the northern part of the county as well reducing the county’s dependence on help from an outside jurisdiction for service.
The lease agreement with Klaasmeyer, LLC includes a two-bedroom apartment and a garage for the ambulance at 25606 Old Kansas City Road for a cost of $2,640 per month.
The station, which actually has a Paola address, is a short drive to Paola, Spring Hill, Hillsdale Lake and other strategic points in the northern part of the county.
The lease begins Jan. 1, 2020, and expires Dec. 31, 2022. At the end of the two-year lease, the county would have an option to extend the lease for three more years, with a rent increase of 3 percent, according to the contract.
“We are looking forward to having another ambulance,” Ediger said. “We need to be placing an ambulance in the north-central part of the county. We want to be prepared for what the future looks like.”