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2017-02-15 / Local

City, state officials address La Vernia EMS deficiencies

By Nannette Kilbey-Smith
Wilson County News


State EMS Director Joseph Schmider outlines his department’s investigation into the La Vernia EMS during a Feb. 9 La Vernia City Council meeting. 
N. KILBEY-SMITH/Reprints at bit.ly/wcnphotos State EMS Director Joseph Schmider outlines his department’s investigation into the La Vernia EMS during a Feb. 9 La Vernia City Council meeting. N. KILBEY-SMITH/Reprints at bit.ly/wcnphotos The La Vernia Volunteer Ambulance Service, known as the La Vernia EMS, is under a two-year probated suspension, according to State EMS Director Joseph Schmider with the Texas Department of State Health Services.

He addressed the situation Feb. 9, at the invitation of the La Vernia City Council.

“They’re under a two-year probated suspension, with an $82,000 fine,” Schmider said. “They won’t pay if they stay ‘clean.’”

Schmider outlined a series of violations and deficiencies his department had discovered during an investigation from November 2015 through May 2016. Among these were failure to validate accuracy and completeness of:

•Patient care records

•Patient care documentation

•Patient abandonment

•Protocol deviations

•Treatment and/or transport refusal signatures

•Personnel working outside their scope of practice.

The investigation followed numerous complaints and texts, Schmider said, advising that these came after a change in leadership in the La Vernia EMS.

His department can shut a service down if it proves necessary; this can take place in a matter of hours, he said.

“If so, we’d ensure an ambulance will be serving you,” Schmider added. “Our mission is to make sure an ambulance is available to serve.”

In that light, Mayor Robert Gregory offered reassurance to the packed-to-capacity council chamber.

“We’re working some agreements out to have a contingency plan with neighboring agencies to ensure we have an ambulance and service,” he said.

In a statement to the Wilson County News, Gregory said he became aware of the state’s enforcement action Jan. 30, and quickly acted to confirm La Vernia EMS was still able to respond to 911 calls.

The city’s contingency plan, he said, includes availability of a crew from Wilson County District 3 Emergency Medical Services, based in Stockdale, and accommodation for the crew and equipment by Wilson County Emergency Services District 1 at the La Vernia Volunteer Fire Department’s station on U.S. 87 in La Vernia.

“We will stay on top of this situation and act only if necessary to ensure your health, safety, and welfare!” Gregory said.

“It is my belief that the expectation of our citizens and our city council is that all emergency services personnel and first responders exercise the utmost level of care, service, and professionalism as their respective training allows,” he added. “We will achieve this with or without the current EMS management. This is a life or death business, and it is serious!”

Area residents, Gregory said, can get information about a proposed countywide EMS system being proposed by the Wilson County Memorial Hospital District. A town hall-style meeting is set for Wednesday, Feb. 22, from 6-8 p.m. at La Vernia City Hall.

nkilbey-smith@wcn-online.com

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