“KCEMS saw the need to transition to a full-time EMS service when the Eagle Ford shale first came to this region,” said Casey Ebrom, a paramedic and also the assistant director of KCEMS. “In the beginning we all assumed that we could continue to handle the increase in call volume appropriately, which we did for the first part of the journey. As calls continued become worse and call volumes began to skyrocket, we began to discuss the idea of a full-time paid service.”
According to Ebrom, the change to a full-time EMS staff became effective on Oct. 1. Previously, the KCEMS was staffed with paid volunteers, which meant that the EMS volunteers would be paid a base rate for signing up for a 12-hour shift, and then for each call that they responded to they would then be paid a stipend. In the past the KCEMS only staffed one EMS unit with emergency medical technicians (EMT) and minimal paramedics.
Dr. Joel Saldana, the Medical Director of KCEMS, had expressed great interest in the idea of becoming a full-time paid department due to the new-found nature of the ever increasing need for services that the KCEMS was being called on to provide.
Ebrom explains that biggest challenge that the KCEMS has had to overcome is the higher 911 emergency call volume and the nature of the calls that the EMTs and paramedics are being dispatched to within the county area.
“To no surprise the unfortunate increase in severe and fatal traffic accidents has been something that no one has ever had to deal with in the past,” he said. “Traumatic injuries due to traffic accidents, industrial accidents, and severe burns all related to the Eagle Ford Shale has taken its toll on all of our staff members both physically and mentally.”
There has also been a significant increase in other types of emergency medical calls as well, states Ebrom. The number of heart attacks, strokes, heat exhaustions, etc. have continued to rise due to all of the increase in population.
To properly handle the varied and serious medical emergencies, the mobile intensive care unit (MICU) of the KCEMS will always have a highly trained paramedic that is authorized to perform many medical procedures. With the MICU, the KCEMS can provide advanced cardiac life support, pediatric life support, advanced medical life support and anything else in between.
Being based out of Kenedy, the only receiving facility that KCEMS transports to is Otto Kaiser Memorial Hospital. However, a very small percentage of the time KCEMS does transport elsewhere if the patient’s status justifies transporting outside of the service area. This instance would exist if a critical patient, whether it be a medical or trauma patient, needed to go to a higher level of care that OKMH could not provide for and the patient could not be sent out via air ambulance; that is when KCEMS would make an informed decision on whether or not their ambulance would transport outside of the county.
The KCEMS is also looking to serve the community in ways beyond just emergency responses.
“Not one individual person has made this service evolve to what it is today, but everyone within this service has made this all possible,” said Ebrom. “In the future we hope to hold community wellness clinics at numerous locations throughout the county and to sit and discuss medical information to all citizens. We will be offering blood pressure checks, blood sugar checks, and numerous other things to help promote wellness in this great county. All of this is to promote a great service that we have.”
As it looks to an ever changing and evolving future, the KCEMS is adapting to successfully and effectively meet the increasing needs and demands for emergency medical response within Karnes County.
“Many more individuals and staff members have put many hours of sacrifice into helping see KCEMS succeed,” concludes Ebrom. “It is great to see how everyone comes together to make something that means so much to them change for the good. My greatest joy of my profession is the simple gesture of leaving a patient at the hospital and them telling me, ‘Thank you for being so great.’ That right there makes all the hours of education and work that we put into this job all worthwhile. Being able to be there for a patient in their worst hour to show compassion and to provide wonderful patient care is something that drives me to jump on the box and work. In the future I see KCEMS being an icon of our community.”