Kan. county plans audit of EMS agency following calls for medical director to resign

Sedgwick County commissioners said they want to know why nearly 100 EMS providers have quit over the last two years

By Laura French

SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan. — A Kansas county plans to hire an independent firm to audit its EMS agency amid an ongoing staffing shortage and controversy surrounding the agency's medical director. 

Sedgwick County commissioners say 93 EMS providers have quit the EMS department over the last two years, including two who quit this week, according to KAKE. The department currently has 19 open paramedic positions. 

One former employee told KAKE last week that a lack of leadership at the department is driving people out, as well as the compounding effects of the staffing shortage. State Rep. Blake Carpenter recently sent a letter to Sedgwick County commissioners after speaking with EMS employees, warning of a "mass exodus" of providers and raising concerns about the leadership of EMS Director/Medical Director Dr. John Gallagher. KAKE reported that some have made calls for Gallagher to resign. 

Gallagher also came under scrutiny in March after seven EMS providers from Sedgwick County EMS and the Wichita Fire Department were disciplined for not transporting a man who had shot himself in the head to the hospital. Under Gallagher's direction, the crews stopped treating the man, who was still breathing and had a pulse, and later had him transferred to hospice care, where he died more than 10 1/2 hours after the shooting. State EMS officials called for Gallagher to be investigated by the state's physicians' licensing board after issuing citations to the providers. 

Gallagher spoke at a budget hearing on Thursday, saying he believes EMS providers are quitting due to low pay. He suggested the county start a paid education program to recruit and retain more employees. 

County Commissioner Jim Howell said he met with 130 EMS providers last week and heard their complaints, and disagreed with Gallagher that the turnover was due to low pay. 

The commission decided to hire an outside firm to audit the EMS department and interview every employee so the county can determine how to solve its hiring and retention problems. 


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