Sedgwick County (KS) EMS Director Placed on Paid Administrative Leave

A man on a stretcher is loaded into the back of an ambulance.
Photo/Sedgwick County Government Facebook)

Chance Swaim

The Wichita Eagle

(MCT)

Sedgwick County EMS Director Dr. John Gallagher was placed on paid administrative leave Monday following a Wichita Eagle investigation into slow response times and a staffing shortage in the department, as employees complain about his leadership style.

County Manager Tom Stolz made the decision Monday. Stolz has been under increasing pressure from EMS employees and Commissioner Jim Howell to act quickly after two EMS employees quit last week, blaming unresponsive leadership during an ongoing public health crisis.

Since Gallagher’s promotion to director in August 2019 — against the wishes of a majority of EMS staff — a third of the department has left, causing ambulance shutdowns and dangerously slow response times. Surveys and interviews suggest a majority of employees who left did so because they disliked Gallagher and his deputies, Dr. Carolina Pereira and Paul Misasi.

EMS employees called for Gallagher’s removal at two closed-door town hall meetings in late April following Eagle reporting on his handling of a 2019 case involving a 31-year-old patient who had apparently shot himself in the head. The patient was five minutes away from the nearest hospital, but Gallagher refused to transport him for five hours, even though the man continued breathing and had a pulse.

After the employee meetings, Sedgwick County hired Wichita law firm Hite, Fanning & Honeyman to audit EMS leadership and protocols.

Pereira, hired in March 2020 by Gallagher to train staff and help re-write protocols, handed in her resignation amid the Eagle’s investigation and the law firm’s audit.

Misasi, deputy director of EMS operations, and Bill Robben, EMS colonel, “will be managing the EMS department,” a news release from the county said.

Stolz offered no further details in the county’s announcement.

“This continues to be a personnel matter and no further information will be disclosed at this time,” the release said.

Howell, who has been pushing for Gallagher to be placed on administrative leave, said the move signals the county manager is ready to take steps to fix the EMS crisis.

“This is obviously a fairly significant move, and I think our management is realizing change absolutely must happen,” Howell said in a phone interview.

Howell said he didn’t hear about the decision until the county sent out a news release announcing it Monday evening and he expects to learn more from the county manager in next couple of days.


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