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Sedgwick County Commissioner welcomes decision to place EMS Director on administrative leave

Published: Jul. 19, 2021 at 7:06 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - There is turmoil in Sedgwick County’s EMS Department. The county placed EMS Director Dr. John Gallagher on paid administrative leave Monday. The decision comes after calls from some EMS staff and elected leaders for Gallagher’s removal.

Sedgwick County Commissioner Jim Howell is one of them. He has been focusing a lot of attention on the county’s EMS department, including Gallagher’s leave.

“I welcome the decision made by management. Based on what I understand, what’s been going on in the organization, this is certainly a step in the right direction,” said Howell.

It’s a sentiment shared by those behind a petition on Change.org which calls for Gallagher’s termination. A Facebook group started this week by EMS employees, called “Sedgwick County EMS Advocates,” provides updates on day-to-day operations and availability of ambulances in the county.

The organizers did not want to go on camera but said they see the county taking this issue seriously and hope more change is coming.

“I think that the situation has gone into a crisis mode,” said Howell. “We haven’t had enough ambulances on the street. We don’t have enough people to run the ambulances to keep our response time where we need them.”

Data provided by EMS Advocates shows 84 full-time ranking personnel, paramedics and EMTs have left since August 2019.

Commissioner Howell has also been collecting data on “status advisories,” when the number of available ambulances is low and it could impact response times. These are issued when there are three or fewer ambulances to answer calls. This includes times when all available ambulances are already dispatched and new calls are put on hold.

“Thankfully, the data, I think, is more understood now today than it has been in the past,” said Howell.

He said he hopes the work going forward will make a difference.

“Hopefully, we’ll see some people, maybe they had some plans perhaps to leave. Maybe they’ll suspend those ideas. Maybe we can bring some people back,” said Howell.

Commissioner Howell said he hopes the EMS’ organizational structure will be addressed, separating EMS from the Office of the Medical Director, which merged in 2019. He is also waiting to see what comes from a county-ordered investigation into EMS.

We expect to learn more Wednesday about Gallagher’s status from county management at the Sedgwick County Commission. Although, any decision on EMS management is made through the county manager, not the county commission.

County Manager Tom Stolz has placed Dr. John Gallagher, EMS Director, on administrative leave with pay effective July 19.

Paul Misasi, Deputy EMS Director, and Bill Robben, EMS Colonel, will be managing the EMS department.

The county said this continues to be a personnel matter and no further information will be disclosed at this time.

Gallagher’s placement comes nearly four months after the Kansas Board of Emergency Medical Services issued an order sanctioning several EMTs and paramedics in the Wichita area and revoking the license of one in connection to the way they handled a 2019 suicide case.

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