El Campo’s EMS director resigned Thursday, preparing to take a private ambulance service post as the department struggles with low collections.
Weston Davis, hired in July 2018 for $80,000 annually, had been a Harris County paramedic manager for the seven years prior to joining El Campo EMS. He replaced Chase Nielsen, a former city councilman who left office for the post on Oct. 7, 2013.
“I’d been on the hunt for maybe bigger jobs .. this one has a few hundred employees,” Davis said, adding he will be the LifeNet area director for Texas operations.
A “help wanted” ad will be posted this week. “We’re internally reviewing the job description prior to posting ... We will be advertising through TML (Texas Municipal League) and other sites to enhance our visibility to candidates,” City Manager Courtney Sladek said. “Although we will miss Weston, we wish him well in his new job.”
El Campo EMS is a city owned and operated institution, its costs paid via a $1.2 million contract with Emergency Services District 4, a taxing entity covering West Wharton County.
Despite the increased COVID-19 call volume, El Campo EMS collections have plunged over the last two years.
“It’s pretty significantly lower,” Davis told Council during budget talks. A good collection rate, Davis told the Leader-News, is 45 to 70 percent.
El Campo EMS collections ranged from a low of 6.7 percent in July for insurance patients to highs of 19.7 percent for private payers in April and July.
Medicaid collections between October 2020 and city budget talks in July ranged from a high of 15.3 percent in May to a low of 9.6 percent in March.
In the city’s fiscal year 2022 budget, collections drop from $954,500 to $884,656.
Emergicon, hired in November 2013, does collections. City Council switched from Prudentia in October 2013 due to a low 43.7 percent collection rate among other issues.
The city is in the process of seeking a new collection company. The effect Davis’ departure will have on the process is unknown. He predicts a decision will be made in December.
During Davis’ tenure, the department went from two to three fully-staffed ambulances per shift when fully staffed.
A major accomplishment, he said, is staff “training people below them to do the job of people above them ... whoever comes in will have a solid foundation. There’s very little they will have to do to fix what was broken.”
When Davis was hired, “there was a lot of turmoil and decisiveness with a new medical director being hired,” he said, adding now the staff is “cohesive.”
Davis’ planned departure date is set for late November, but the city may not be able to make a hire quite that quickly. As a result, an interim director may be named.
The city of El Campo’s previous efforts to name an EMS director were fraught with issues since the retirement of Steve Appling in 2008.
Nielsen was the fourth person in a 12-month period to head El Campo EMS either in a full or interim capacity.
Other previous interim or full EMS directors were Ben Altenhoff (now retired), Mike Giesalhart (now working for Wharton EMS) and Jimmy George Jr., still with the department.
The current assistant EMS director is Garret Bubela.
Davis recommends him for the job. “I recommended to the city manager that I felt he would be able to be a good EMS director,” he said.