At an emergency meeting Wednesday night, the Osage Ambulance District Board of Directors voted unanimously to have the Gasconade County 911 Center handle its dispatching after the ambulance director said he had serious concerns about the services currently being provided by the Osage County 911 dispatch center.
According to Osage County Sheriff Mike Bonham, the 911 center is authorized to have eight people on staff, but as of Wednesday, the center was down to four personnel.
The sheriff's department is not in charge of 911; the Osage County Emergency Operations Center is the 911 dispatch center for the county, which dispatches calls for four ambulance districts and seven fire departments or fire protection districts, as well as Belle and Linn police departments and the sheriff's department.
With the ambulance district board's approval, Emergency Medical Service Chief Joshua Krull said Gasconade County will begin handling the district's dispatching effective today at $9 a call and will continue to do so, "until a time that Osage County 911 is properly trained and staffed to accommodate our needs. Since the 911 service is funded by taxes, it is my recommendation we continue to work with the county to bring service back to an acceptable level."
At Wednesday's meeting, Krull said concerns had been mounting since August when he said there were two instances where dispatchers were unable to give proper addresses and patient information to ambulances. One of those cases involved a dispatcher in training, and in both cases, Krull said patients died despite resuscitation efforts by emergency personnel when they eventually got to the scene.
Krull said he talked with 911 Administrator Andrea Rice after these incidents about his concerns, and Rice reportedly told him the center was short staffed and they did the best they could.
Krull added, during a meeting of the Osage County 911 Advisory Board on Monday, Rice claimed they may be down to one dispatcher on duty at some point in the near future and may be unable to provide emergency medical dispatch at all times of the day.
Krull said he submitted a complaint to the Osage County Commission and told them of his concerns for potential litigation.
Part of the problem, Krull said, was in regards to who is responsible for assembling crews and determining which ambulance responds to a call — the ambulance district or the 911 center.
"These were abrupt changes in the 911 center's willingness to dispatch the ambulance district according to established policy and procedures," he said.
Osage County Presiding Commissioner Darryl Griffin said it was up to the district to assemble crews and determine which ambulance base responds to a call, not the county's 911 service.
He told the ambulance board they found the 911 center was "serving as a mere middleman," with 911 employees having to receive information and then provide it to the ambulances, which meant dispatchers were spending "an excessive amount of time on scheduling of routine transfer calls, which could take away from their ability to dispatch emergency calls."
Griffin said the commission is continuing to work on a software system to upgrade the emergency dispatch's capability for pre-arrival instructions to help ambulance crews, and they invited the board and ambulance employees to give their input.
"Our decision to focus our responsibility on an upgrade in emergency dispatch services is not a downgrade to the public," Griffin said in a news release. "These changes in no way affect emergency response in Osage County. Our changes affect how the ambulance district provides district coverage."