Blanco EMS Director Mike West is a jack of all trades. In addition to answering calls in the ambulance and doing paperwork, he does maintenance work and has even had to clean the bathrooms at the Blanco facility. During Christmas week he worked straight through till the day after Christmas, spending two hours doing all his Christmas shopping. So, as he explained in a recent interview with the Blanco County News, the organization and staffing of the EMS must change to keep up with the increasing volume of calls—an anticipated 800 in 2014. Expenses have risen as the three full-time employees—West, Marcus Diaz, and Rick DeWolfe—have logged more overtime hours due to a loss of personnel and higher-than-normal call-offs from part-time employees. Although EMS has a number of skilled part-time EMT’s and paramedics, they have other commitments and fulltime jobs which limit the hours they can work. “ It wasn’t the best model for being consistent with all tasks,” confessed West—it was difficult to complete tasks properly.”
In response to these challenges, West has a plan to restructure the department to a more conventional model, with three full-time captains and a full-time support medic working 24-hour on, 48-hour off shifts. “Our #1 goal is to have continuity of care—to have captains here regularly.” The EMS board has already approved West’s plan, and applications for two additional captains have been posted on the department’s website—blancoems.org—due February 28 at 4 p.m. The interview process for prospective employees, which includes a criminal background check, will probably put the new employees in place by April 1, West hopes. Although the salary range is $41,928 to $46,928, West says the department will not be seeking additional money from the Emergency Services District. His responsibilities will change, down to one 12-hour shift per week on the ambulance, and 40 hours a week performing administrative tasks.
Blanco EMS is also looking at a Systems Status Management Plan to deal with secondary calls which come in when the primary ambulance is out on a call, with the goal of arriving at the patient’s side more quickly.
West’s meticulous monthly reports to the ESD, as well as the annual four-day audit performed for EMS, are a result, he says, of “the dishonesty in the past.” “I am so grateful for the ESD and the EMS board,” he adds, for their guidance in funding and providing compliance with the laws and regulations. “The citizens should be thankful,” he asserts. “It has been rumored that the ESD micromanages our system [but] we have never had them tell us what to do. We have had them question expenses [but] they are put in place to protect the taxpayer, and they are doing their job.”
West, a native of South Texas, has a background in fire suppression, and previously worked as a lieutenant with the Bulverde Spring Branch EMS. He began volunteering in Blanco in 2008 and has been in his present position since 2010. “It’s the best career I’ve ever had,” he admits. However, he adds that the most discouraging thing about his job is the reluctance of some citizens to approach him directly with questions and concerns. “People pass along rumors and misinformation rather than coming to the source,” he said, such as the rumor that he was resigning from the Blanco EMS. He encourages citizens to call or just come by if they have concerns.