Emergency Services Coverage Near Omaha Debated

Update on emergency services south of the metro.Board members plan to move quickly to the next step of forming an independent committee to further analyze the county’s 10 emergency medical transport services and plan for future operations.

The Cassgram reports that was one of the major recommendations made in the recently completed assessment.

Last October, the Cass County Board of Commissioners authorized the study which was paid for by federal grant funds with no cost to the county. The findings are recommendations only. At the time the study was authorized, there were two things that Dean Cole of the State of Nebraska emergency medical services and trauma division emphasized to board members before their vote: 1. There is no state law that says any town, city or county has to provide emergency medical services. 2. An assessment can become an “emotional issue.”

The assessment was for EMS only; there was no study or recommendation on fire departments.

In addition to the formation of a Cass County Emergency Medical Transport Service (CCEMTS) committee, the study conducted by PrioriHealth Partners also recommended:

-improving radio communication abilities between law enforcement and rescue squads and between rescue squads from different communities

-consider a county consolidated unit of emergency transport services

-employing a physician medical director for CCEMTS

Now that the county has the assessment, “the ball is in your court,” said Cole to the county board members. He said there are now really three options: 1. Shelving the report and doing nothing. 2. Saying “yes” and implementing the report as is. 3. Taking parts of the report and making adaptations that are best for the county.

Cole said that if the county acted within the next 30 days, he could acquire more grant funding to help with a facilitator and the documentation of the work of the CCEMTS committee.

All five commissioners joined in the conversation about “turf issues” that existed and still exist between some rescue departments from different communities; the low availability of volunteers, especially during the day; and how the need for EMS reorganization appears to be greatest in the eastern part of the county where there are more calls.

“Part of the thinking on this has to be, ‘where is this going to take us from a financial standpoint or politically,’” said District 3 Commissioner Jim Peterson.

“The main thing is getting people to the table to discuss it,” responded Cole.

In 2009 and 2010 the City of Plattsmouth had EMS issues. An assessment was done, a committee formed and a medical director position was established. Today the city utilizes a mixture of paid paramedics (12 total, full and part-time) and volunteers. The volunteers sign up for shifts and it is “extremely successful,” said Plattsmouth EMS Manager Mike Wood. “In April of 2010, our response time out the door was over nine minutes,” said Wood. “We are now this year averaging two minutes and thirty seconds to get out the door.”

Plattsmouth City Administrator Erv Portis said he believes the county board “is in the position to be in the driver’s seat” because the board has final approval of the tax levies in the rural fire districts around the county. He applauded the county for asking for the assessment and looking at the long term. Plattsmouth doesn’t want to lead the process but “we want to be a partner with you,” said Portis.

Cole said the answers won’t come overnight. “If it takes a year or two, at least we’re working on the problem,” said Board Chairwoman Janet McCartney.

The board unanimously passed a motion that says it is willing to take a leadership role on EMS options and seeks help through state’s EMS/ trauma division.

The special committee formation is tentatively set for the next meeting.


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