Concerns about ambulance response times have prompted the Kansas City Council to call for additional medical oversight of the city's combined fire/ambulance service.
Ever since the Kansas City Fire Department merged with the former MAST ambulance service in April 2010, the evolution of that blended department has been dominated by fire officials rather than experts in emergency medicine, according to Councilman Ed Ford.
So Ford pushed for an ordinance, approved Thursday by the City Council, to add more doctors to the committee that oversees the emergency medical system's performance.
"My concern was that there wasn't enough input from stakeholders besides fire," Ford said.
In the recent past, the emergency medical services coordinating committee had only one doctor: the city's medical director, Joseph Salomone, who specializes in emergency medicine.
The other members were the fire chief, a paramedic and emergency medical technician from fire management, a paramedic and EMT from the firefighters labor union, a representative of the city manager's office, and Councilman John Sharp, who heads the council's Public Safety Committee.
The new ordinance expands the membership to include city health department director Rex Archer, another physician specializing in emergency medicine and another City Council member. The mayor makes the appointments, and Ford and Sharp said they have people in mind to suggest to the mayor.
Since the ambulance merger, the City Council and fire officials have had intense debates about the importance of ambulance response times and how best to deploy ambulances and pumper trucks to respond to medical emergencies. Salomone and others have argued that patient outcomes are more important than response times -- while pointing out that the ambulance service already gets high marks for its cardiac save rates and other important patient care measures.
But the department's dispatch protocol has come under some criticism for adding more than a minute to average response times.
In addition, the department is in the process of launching several pilot projects to try to relieve the busiest crews, increase efficiency and keep improving patient care.
Ford and Sharp both agreed that now is the time to beef up the oversight committee and that the dispatch protocol and pilot projects would benefit from additional medical scrutiny.