2021 EMS Agency of the Year: Karnes County EMS

2021 EMS Agency of the Year

Karnes County EMS

Karnes County is located approximately 60 miles southeast of San Antonio and has a population of approximately 16,000 people.

The EMS was organized in 1972 as a volunteer organization and made the transition to full-time in 2013. 

Chief Dennis Kelley and Assistant Chief Casey Ebrom have constantly been pushing KCEMS to be one of the most progressive EMS agencies in South Texas.

KCEMS features a tremendous focus on clinical education and leadership, and this includes recruiting talented paramedics and EMTs to provide a high level of critical care medicine. 

KCEMS began taking “Alert” (Trauma Alerts, Heart Alerts, Stroke Alerts) from their local critical access hospitals because of a lack of timely inter-facility transfer services.  The quality of the service KCEMS provided to the hospital was recognized, which resulted in KCEMS being able to take all patient transfers to higher a level of care in San Antonio, Victoria, Cuero and other cities.  This deliberate decision provided additional resources that led to higher service levels to the 911 calls and transfer calls.

KCEMS also provides a high-level clinical environment as a leader in rural EMS providers.  With tools such as LUCAS, IV Pumps, Video Laryngoscopes, EMV+ ventilators, whole blood and a high-level formulary that allows a high level of care to their residents and a high level of care during transfers of critically ill patients to higher levels of care (60-plus miles one way). 

After multiple mass casualty responses in their district, Karnes County set out to find a better way to do triage.  Using regional triage tags proved difficult at best and led medics to just abandon them which caused added difficulty in these MCI situations.  Assistant Chief Ebrom set out to find a new method of triage that would be more efficient and easier for medics to utilize under pressure, and it also more closely mimicked patient priority systems used daily.  Then, after developing this, Assistant Chief Ebrom then approached the Regional Advisory Council (RAC) and worked with over 35 9-1-1 agencies to bring this better system to the region as a whole. 

This work didn’t stop there and KCEMS leadership has driven the RAC to a new triage “tag” system, and this is continuing to better prepare the entire RAC for large scale MCI events. 

Finally, KCEMS has gone above and beyond to care for their county’s residents during the pandemic by leading with early and frequent testing events and vaccination clinics.  They worked to get patients from the critical access hospital into town during surges when their 911 volume made it very difficult. 

Karnes County EMS is a progressive, strong and clinically strong EMS agency that works tirelessly to care for their citizens every day, no matter the obstacles they encounter.