Idaho city EMTs object to leadership arrangement, policies

A group of 15 EMTs said they would remove themselves from the roster if a list of stipulations was not addressed


Kathy Hedberg,
Lewiston Tribune, Idaho

The city of Kamiah’s Emergency Medical Services is fully operational, said Mayor Betty Heater, despite the disputed resignations last week of 15 of the 23 emergency medical technicians.

Heater said Monday a new EMS supervisor has been hired and all the shifts are covered. The city is preparing to negotiate memorandums of understanding with neighboring counties and the Nez Perce Tribe to fill in shifts when needed.

Heater said she has also made an overture to the EMTs who resigned — some of whom claim they were fired — by offering them a chance to come back to work for the city.

“I did leave an olive branch out,” Heater said. “If they want to come back, they can fill out the proper paperwork and go through the hiring process.

“As a manager and a boss, when you refuse to work, you pretty much are saying, ‘I’m not working any more.’ And so to me it was very black and white. They put me in a very tough position. They backed me up in a corner with no way out ... and that is why I accepted their quitting. I did not fire them,” Heater said.

In a letter addressed to the city council in November, 15 members of the ambulance crew listed five stipulations of their continued participation and noted that if those conditions were not addressed by Dec. 2, “the undersigned EMTs will remove themselves from the schedule for the Kamiah ambulance until such time as they are resolved.”

The stipulations included establishing the ambulance crew as a separate division of the city directly answerable to the mayor, not the fire department, as is currently the case. The stipulations also ask that the ambulance crew be allowed to choose their own leadership in agreement with the mayor.

Daniel Chadwick, the Kamiah city attorney, said the ambulance crew made it clear they did not want to be supervised by the fire chief, Daniel Musgrave, or the new EMS supervisor, Andrea Layne, who was recently hired by the city. That resulted in what Chadwick called the crew’s “ultimatum.”

Although the city is not legally obligated to maintain an ambulance service, the Kamiah crew responds to about 500 calls a year, Chadwick said. With the shortage of staff, the city has been able to call on other agencies to fill in some of the gaps.

The dispute between the ambulance crew and Musgrave has been long simmering. Betty Metcalf, one of the EMTs who signed the letter to the city council, said it has a lot to do with the fire chief’s lack of medical qualifications.

“Until a few years ago, the Kamiah ambulance was run by a nonprofit organization that took care of the ambulance under the city,” Metcalf said. The city changed that arrangement in 2015, putting the ambulance service under the supervision of the fire chief.

“So everything on the ambulance he was in charge of with no medical knowledge,” Metcalf said. “So it caused a lot of chaos when you have someone trying to run your department with no medical knowledge.”

Metcalf said many of the disputes between ambulance crew members and Musgrave had to do with the chief wanting control.

Metcalf also said the EMTs did not quit, but only intended to remove themselves from the December roster until the situation could be resolved.

“We did not resign,” Metcalf said. “We are a volunteer ambulance service and all we said was that we were removing ourselves from the schedule until we could talk to them to reach a decision. But they don’t want to talk to us.”

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©2019 the Lewiston Tribune (Lewiston, Idaho)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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