Politics & Government

Approved budget includes new EMS post in southeast Sedgwick County

The recently approved Sedgwick County budget includes funds for a new EMS post in the southeast part of the county.
The recently approved Sedgwick County budget includes funds for a new EMS post in the southeast part of the county. File photo

A new emergency medical services post is back on the county’s to-do list for 2016.

The newly approved county budget will help pay for a $1.4 million EMS post in southeast Sedgwick County next year.

The post had been slated for later, but EMS officials recommended moving it up after Wesley Medical Center announced it would open a free-standing emergency room in the Derby area.

It was one of the few budget proposals that got a thumbs up from all five county commissioners last week. The total $412.3 million budget was approved by a 3-2 vote after several hours of debate.

“The growth has been so great that they need to put a station there as soon as possible,” Commissioner Jim Howell said during the budget’s adoption. His district covers Derby and southeastern Sedgwick County.

From 2011 to 2014, EMS calls from Derby spiked 19 percent. Haysville’s call volume rose nearly 24 percent in that time.

The 2016 recommended budget originally delayed two EMS posts, one in the southeast and one in the northeast parts of the county.

Commissioners and county staff members said last month that the northeast post was closer to fruition than the southeast post. That’s because the county has already bought land for the northeast post.

But Sedgwick County EMS director Scott Hadley said the southeast post became a priority after Wesley announced it was planning to build a free-standing emergency room in the Derby area.

“Once Wesley announced that they were, for sure, going to go ahead with their project in the Derby area, I re-approached commissioners and the budget office,” Hadley said.

The $10 million emergency room building will be at the corner of East 63rd Street South and Rock Road. It’s undecided where the new EMS post will be. The county already has a post on Rock Road in Derby.

There was already growing interest based on a higher demand for emergency medical services in the area.

“I submitted the project based on (Wesley) talking about one, but we also noticed there’s been an increase in growth in the Derby area, the Haysville area and the southeast part of Wichita,” Hadley said.

While voting for the southeast post, Commissioners Tim Norton and Dave Unruh blamed the delay of the northeast post on the county’s plan to stop issuing bonds to borrow money to pay for roads and bridges.

“Having (the southeast post) take a priority over the EMS station in District 1 is not exactly something I’m just really happy about, but the circumstances probably call for it,” Unruh said.

The northeast station would largely serve residents in his district.

“With a little bonding, we could probably go ahead where we’ve already bought property and put in the northeast station,” Norton said.

The $1.4 million for the southeast post will come from county contingency cash.

Hadley said he hopes it will open in late summer or early fall next year, around the same time or shortly after the Wesley ER will open.

The county already has an ambulance and four employees for the post. That ambulance is active seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Right now, the ambulance is parked at a Haysville station overnight and stays around the intersection of K-15 and 47th Street when it is on call.

“We move them around as needed throughout the day,” Hadley said.

He said he’ll ask for an additional four crew members next year so the post can be staffed around the clock starting in 2017.

The county has been able to maintain most response times in urban areas in the southeast, but some response times elsewhere have lagged, Hadley said.

“It certainly stresses the suburban and rural areas, because as it gets busier in the core of the city, it pulls resources in,” Hadley said.

With the southeast post greenlighted, Hadley hopes the county can build the northeast post soon.

Sedgwick County EMS is using a city of Wichita fire station near K-96 and Webb Road as a temporary northeast post in the meantime.

“The citizens are not at risk or jeopardy. We’re going to be in the area and still providing service up there,” Hadley said.

Reach Daniel Salazar at 316-269-6791 or dsalazar@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @imdanielsalazar.

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