Ambulance staff back internal candidate for chief

Concerns raised over training, supply management

Adam Rollins, Staff Writer
Posted 5/20/22

Staff of the Warren County Ambulance District are voicing their support for the district’s interim chief to be promoted to permanently lead ambulance operations.

In a letter delivered to the …

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Ambulance staff back internal candidate for chief

Concerns raised over training, supply management

Posted

Staff of the Warren County Ambulance District are voicing their support for the district’s interim chief to be promoted to permanently lead ambulance operations.

In a letter delivered to the district’s board of directors last week, staff members called for Deputy Chief Darren Lenk to be selected as their next chief officer. Lenk has served as a deputy chief since 2018, and has been leading the district’s daily operations since the sudden retirements of Chief Tim Flake and Deputy Chief Mike Eskew in April.

The letter was signed by 26 full-time staff members, including battalion chiefs (crew-level supervisors) and lieutenants. Battalion Chief Amanda Warmann read the letter aloud at the district’s May 10 board meeting.

“Over the past few years since being promoted, Deputy Chief Lenk has displayed nothing but ideal leadership skills,” staff wrote in the letter, adding that Lenk has invested significant time into improving staff procedures and undergoing leadership training.

“He has unarguably surpassed any and all expectations set for him ... while working collaboratively with employees and continuing to build personal relationships,” the letter continues. “All of the current employees respect and trust Deputy Chief Lenk and his ability to be our future leader. We are eager to follow his vision of making Warren County Ambulance District a place of progressive thinking with fair and firm leadership.”

Staff concerns

While praising Lenk, staff are also raising concerns that the district’s operations haven’t been meeting standards that are considered best practices in the field of emergency medical response. Medics currently have “subpar” training, staff said in their letter, including little cross-training with other first responder agencies, “which results in patient care that is not of the highest standards.”

Several employees of the Warren County Ambulance District also work for neighboring ambulance agencies, and wrote in their letter that local operating practices compare poorly and should be improved.

Staff are also raising concerns about “outdated” and “unorganized” procedures for ordering and managing supplies and medications, including narcotics. The district’s three battalion chiefs described overhauling supply rooms that were in disarray, uncovering boxes of important supplies that they were told were unavailable, and finding a significant amount of expired medications in the secure office formerly managed by Eskew.

“These are the things that the public has been unaware of and never questioned because of their trust and support” for the district’s leadership, staff said in their letter.

In recommending Lenk for the chief’s post, the staff members said he has shown a progressive attitude toward policy changes and a willingness to consider input from staff to address these concerns.

The battalion supervisors said that in the last few weeks, they’ve been working to completely organize all supplies and implement a computerized inventory management system, with automated alerts for shortages and expirations.

“There’s a lot of things that we were always willing to do, but there was always this feeling of restraint, that we always had to jump through a lot of hoops to get things done,” said Battalion Chief Jackie Johnson. “Now, I think we’ve done more in two weeks than in the past two years. We’ve had a lot of help from the crews and everyone pulling together to get things done.”

During the presentation from supervisors, ambulance district board members mostly just listened, other than to offer gratitude and compliments to the staff for their work.
Board President Merlyn Petersmeyer later told The Record that the board is open to the staff’s recommendations for improvements.

“I trust the judgment of the staff who were telling us about the supply,” Petersmeyer said. “A new broom always sweeps clean. ... We’re working on any problems we have, and hopefully the way we’re going to do it next time is better than the way we did it last time.”

Petersmeyer also commented that the staff are smart to be looking at other districts for ideas on how to improve services in Warren County.

“If you can’t take good parts from other operations to make your operation better, you’re not paying much attention,” he commented. “Hopefully we’ll improve every aspect of the service the district provides. ... Whatever action we take, hopefully will be the best for the taxpayers of Warren County.”

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