Editorial: Give away extra ESD money?…Why not use it for greater EMS coverage and hire two full-time ambulances?

There have been two calls just in this past week in which Devine residents had to wait for an ambulance to respond from another city because there were none available here.
We currently have hired only 1 full time ambulance and 1 part time ambulance to cover the Devine/Natalia area. The Medina County Sheriff and many who listen to that dispatch radio traffic acknowledge that THE NEED IS THERE for more.
The local ESD (Emergency Service District) #4 board is solely in charge of overseeing ambulance service for the Devine and Natalia area.
Yet, with $147,155 in the ESD#4 reserve account, at the last ESD#4 meeting held at the Devine EMS station this past October, the board President discussed wanting to solicit ways the district can “give back to the community” rather than simply hiring another full time ambulance.
That taxpayer funded money was intended to provide EMS service. Shouldn’t it be used to provide the highest level of EMS coverage possible?
It could be used to make sure that the residents of Devine/Natalia area have 2 full-time ambulances stationed here instead of having only 1 full and 1 part-time ambulance.
According to the Sheriff, a situation arises at least several times a month where Devine or Natalia area residents are have to wait for an ambulance to come from San Antonio, Moore, Lytle, or other surrounding cities.
Just recently, on Monday October 26th around 4 pm, a resident dialed 911 for an ambulance. The ambulance was needed just a couple blocks away from the EMS station by Food King. But that caller had to wait for an ambulance to come all the way from Hondo’s EMS station because we did not have an ambulance available here. Because we did not have enough ambulances to respond to calls going on in the Devine area that afternoon, that caller had to wait around 25 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.
Just a couple days later on October 30th, the same thing happened….a call came into 911 for a local resident having chest pain/intense nausea, and the ambulance that we had here that night was busy on another call, so dispatch had to request an ambulance to come here from Atascosa County. Because Atascosa County ambulances are not a regular part of our dispatch system, our county doesn’t even have a record of what the response time was.
“On that day there were 3 back-to-back calls that needed EMS, and this happens more often than you might think,” Sheriff Brown stated. “So the fire dept and Community EMS was called from Hondo to respond to one of the other calls in Devine…..I can tell you minutes seem like hours when it’s your family member who is waiting on an ambulance, and when you are really having to wait 20 or 25 minutes for an ambulance that’s hard.”

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What would two full time ambulances cost?
Allegiance submitted two bids when it was time for contract renewal:
– $200,000 annually for 1 full time and 1 part time ambulance
– $350,000 for two full time 24 hour ambulances
When more ambulances are needed, they are called upon to backfill from a variety of places such as other Allegiance units in San Antonio or Moore. Sometimes assistance has to be requested from other service providers in other surrounding cities as well.
How much tax money does the ESD4 receive each year?
The latest audit shows that the district was projected to get $412,105 in tax revenue for the current year to provide emergency services to the Devine and Natalia area. That revenue has grown steadily with increased tax valuations around the area and is up from $395,445 in ESD tax revenues last year.
According to the latest audit, the district’s Expenses for EMS services were $216,667 for the year while general/admin expenses were $81,468 for the current audit year, totaling $298,135.
In a recent interview about this issue, Sheriff Brown stated, “There are plenty of times that our dispatchers get calls for someone needing an ambulance and the EMS in Devine/Natalia is still trying to backfill another unit to the local station. Then once a unit from San Antonio, it is often a crew that doesn’t work this area very often so they don’t know their way around the roads like a crew that is stationed here would.”
“Don’t get me wrong though….The men and women on those ambulances work their butts off, and the boots on the ground do a heck of a job,” Sheriff Brown added.
Back in the 1980s-early 2000’s volunteer EMS crews in Devine remember that their two ambulances were plenty busy and at that time they were answering about 1,400 emergency calls a year. In 2020 the area’s population has only grown, and Devine/Natalia EMS crews are answering around 2,000 calls a year.
Some background: ESD stands for Emergency Service District. There are several ESD’s in Medina County. ESD#4 is a special taxing entity created solely to fund and oversee local EMS Ambulance service in Devine and Natalia. There is a different ESD board that oversees fire service. The ESD#4’s board of volunteers hired Allegiance Mobile Health to provide ambulances to the Devine and Natalia areas, and has the option to hire more ambulances.
Volunteers on the ESD 4 board are currently: Beth Leonesio-President, Juan Cuellar, Bill Marshall, Anthony Martin, and Viola McHorse-Potter.
Would you like to serve on the board overseeing EMS service in Devine and Natalia?
Leonesio announced that two board members are retiring and that anyone interested in serving on the board should attend the next ESD#4 meeting Nov. 10. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at 206 Dixon Drive, Devine (beside the EMS station near Food King).
In lieu of taking applications at this point, Leonesio said the board will gauge candidates’ interest in person.
You do not have to be in the medical profession. These board members are simply meant to oversee our ambulance service and be stewards of taxpayer money
By Kayleen Holder and KK Calame 
Editor and Publisher