Karnes EMS is Texas' Best

Karnes County EMS Supervisor Steven Stolle leads equipment in the back of a vehicle in prepation for an emergency call. (Photo by Jeff Osborne)

Being honored as the best in Texas at anything is an impressive distinction, and when it comes to those serving on the frontlines of life and death situations, that recognition is magnified.

Karnes County EMS was recently named the Texas EMS Alliance’s top service provider in the state, and Karnes County Judge Wade Hedtke said the honor is well deserved.

“We’re very fortunate to have them,” Hedtke said. “We’re really proud of them. I have always felt they were the best, and it’s nice for others to recognize that. They go above and beyond to do whatever is needed to help people and never question it.”

The Texas EMS Alliance was formed as a grassroots coalition to advocate for EMS providers at the Texas Legislature, and represents both rural and urban EMS agencies.

“We were fortunate enough to be nominated and selected as their EMS of the year,” said Casey Ebrom, assistant director of the Karnes County EMS.

He said the alliance took note of the progress the local EMS had made under the leadership of Dennis Kelley in its transformation from a volunteer organization to a full-time professional group.

“That has allowed us to more effectively treat patients when it comes to clinical protocols,” Ebrom said.

“One of the priorities for both Dennis and me is to offer the best quality of care available anywhere. Just because we are a rural department doesn’t mean we can’t offer outstanding service. It’s important not to let your ZIP code affect the quality of care you provide.”

The department has 23 employees, including 18 emergency medical technicians, three shift supervisors, the director and assistant director.

“We are 100 percent county funded,” Ebrom said. “The commissioners court and Judge Hedtke have been tremendous advocates for us, and that support has allowed us to excel.

“This award represents the work of the entire crew, everybody involved, it took a group effort and we continue to work together to do our best to serve the people of this area.”

Those working for the department are on 48-hour shifts, being on call two full days and nights and then having 96 hours off.

That schedule allows the EMS to draw employees not only from Karnes County and surrounding counties, but from as far away as New Braunfels, San Marcos and Victoria.

“That’s a good thing,” Ebrom said. “People want to come here from outside the immediate area, and that speaks well of our local EMS.

When asked what types of emergencies Karnes County EMS faces, Ebrom said there are a variety.

“Literally anything and everything,” he said. “Our primary goal is to be the 9-1-1 service for the county. We respond to heart attacks, altered states (of consciousness), motor vehicle collisions, falls and interagency transfers.”

He said transferring patients from one facility to another “is a huge need in a rural environment.

“People need to be confident of getting the best care possible when being transported from one (medical) facility to another,” Ebrom said. “We are a mobile intensive care unit. We have many critical care items that you’d find in an urban hospital.”

The responsibility that comes with the job can be both sobering and empowering, he said.

“The paramedics and EMTs have such a vital role,” Ebrom said. “I remind the new employees to stay humble and remember that they literally have the power of life and death in their hands.”

While providing top-notch medical care is the primary goal, another important priority for the agency’s leadership is financial accountability, he said.

“We are responsible for being good stewards of taxpayer money,” Ebrom said. “We are investing in people, and that’s a huge responsibility that should not be taken lightly.”



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