BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – The advisory group ushering in the county’s new ambulance service is still considering a subcommittee to oversee patient care issues.
Jim Steffen, an EMS instructor at Southeastern Community College who chairs the Lee County EMS advisory board, said he doesn’t believe a subcommittee to review patient care is necessary.
Steffen said current review panels required by the state and area hospitals are sufficient to handle any issues that arise out of patient care, and all issues ultimately land in the lap of the EMS Medical Director, currently Dr. David Wenger-Keller.
Fort Madison Fire Chief Joey Herren and Keokuk Fire Chief Gabe Rose have expressed concerns that current review protocols aren’t sufficient, and have allowed past issues to slip through the cracks.
Herren said Monday that he would be willing to serve on the committee.
“Since we are starting a new service, both committees would be a positive,” Herren said. “That way we do address the issues we’ve talked about. And I’m willing to serve on either one of them to make sure we address those.”
Rose was more pointed.
“I’m fine with that. If they want disband the committee I’m fine with that, too,” Rose said.
At the previous meeting of the advisory board last week, board member Dr. Phillip Caropreso, of Keokuk, said he disagreed with the idea that current quality review protocols were sufficient.
Steffen said he wanted to make sure Caropreso’s concerns were fully addressed.
“If there is validity to having that subcommittee of this board, it would have to include the two hospitals and reps from the two fire departments,” Steffen said.
“But I don’t see the validity of the group at all if we can’t get someone from the hospital on the board, and I don’t see anyone from the hospital on this call.”
Steffen went on to repeat he didn’t think a patient care quality subcommittee was necessary.
“I’ll be blunt. I don’t think this group is necessary, but I want to give Dr. Caropreso’s opinion full view.”
Lee County EMS Director Dennis Cosby said he agreed with Steffen, but he had no problem setting up and chairing the subcommittee if the hospitals were on board.
Cosby said he would reach out to the hospitals to gauge interest in sitting on the subcommittee.
Cosby said the hospitals have quarterly reviews of EMS services with a heavy panel of reps from the ERs, trauma teams and nursing staff that review patient care. He said the EMS staff will also do daily peer reviews. Cosby said those typically catch billing errors, but they do serve as a daily review.
Cosby also will review daily call sheets and trauma care reports.
Rick Larkin, who, along with Garry Seyb, Jr., represent the Lee County Board of Supervisors on the advisory group, asked if creating the subcommittee would render the advisory board obsolete.
Steffen said there are too many other patient care data points such as response times, the public needs to be kept aware of.
The debate ended without a decision pending Cosby making contact with the hospitals. The board will meet again in March.
In an unrelated issue, Steffen questioned the hiring of Lee County Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Jason Dinwiddie as the Lee County EMS Director of Operations in a dual role.
Steffen said he has no issues with Dinwiddie doing double duty, but was concerned that Dinwiddie wasn’t a paramedic.
Cosby said he had that concern originally as well, but after conversations with Dinwiddie, he is comfortable in the decision.
Steffen said he would encourage the new service to put Dinwiddie in paramedic school at some point.
“There’s enough value there to justify the cost of sending him at some point,” he said.