ESD-EMS merges

Historic deal will change medical services


It was history in the making on Monday night, and Gonzales residents will be better off for a long time because of it.

At a special meeting involving the Emergency Service District (ESD) management board and the Gonzales Emergency Medical Services (EMS) board of directors, it was decided to combine both entities under one umbrella in order to provide better services, better financial integrity and accountability and better leadership moving forward. By doing so, it will make Gonzales County the premier provider of medical emergency services in the area.

At the meeting in the EMS training room on Monday, both entities agreed to come under the management of the ESD board. All resources, equipment, finances, property and cash will be pooled to create greater economies of scale and to provide far broader and more quality up-to-date services that have not been provided recently.

By combining the two entities, the new entity will have greater access to more revenue, more opportunities for grants for real and personal property and more ways to better serve the residents of Gonzales County and even surrounding counties that touch Gonzales’ border.

“This is an exciting time,” said Dr. Commie Hisey who serves on the board. “To think not long ago we were in the red, there was a substantial need for modernized equipment, there was no oversight and we were about to go under as an organization. Now, we are solvent and so many great things are about to happen.”

“It’s one of the most miraculous turnarounds I’ve ever been associated with,” said Rene de la Garza, chairman of ESD board. “I’m absolutely ecstatic that we were able to work hard, work together and turn this thing around. We’ve come a long, long way in the past two years.”

Allen Linebrink, who is in charge of the day-to-day operations of EMS, was thrilled.

“I’m extremely happy today—this is great for the public and a real big help for the staff,” Linebrink said after the historic vote. “I remember when we were talking bankruptcy not long ago but with lots of hard work, dedication to the job and a goal of helping the public, it got done. I’m really proud of what took place here tonight.”

The benefits of the merger will be almost as immediate as they are stunning. Here are some of the things this board has been able to accomplish and set in motion:

  • In April, four new state-of-the-art ambulances will be delivered to EMS. In recent years ambulances were beginning to show their wear-and-tear and needed to be replaced but there was no money;
  • Gonzales ESD has entered into an agreement with PHI Air Medical to offer “free” airlifts to Gonzales residents who have been involved in serious accidents or who have serious medical conditions. In fact, this service will be offered to citizens of surrounding counties that touch the border of Gonzales County. The cost for an airlift can be in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars and now Gonzales can use it at no charge when the need occurs;
  • New and modern supplies, equipment and uniforms for the EMS staff is ordered and is coming;
  • In the past, if local residents had to use EMS equipment or services and they could not pay the fee, a lien was placed on their property until EMS recovered its money. According to de la Garza and Belinda Richter who works at EMS, all of the liens have been removed.

“It’s remarkable isn’t it?” asked a quietly smiling Donald Rihn afterwards. “It took us a little while, but we did it.”