For our first EMS Dashboard Confessional, let me tell you a story from my personal journey as an EMS leader:
In the past, I served as the Executive Director of a large hospital-based EMS system. We provided daytime BLS coverage for a local municipality as part of a legacy contract for free, and we were losing money on the agreement. At one point, the municipal EMS provider that covered the balance of the hours stopped functioning and the town asked us to pick up the balance of the hours. Of course, they still expected us to provide this additional service free of charge. Adding service hours with minimal call volume would have more than doubled the economic loss we were already incurring, so in communication with the town leaders we declined to do this and they entered into an agreement with a neighboring town for 24/7 ambulance coverage.
The final decision on this happened on a Tuesday night at a Council meeting. I didn’t think much of the issue, as we were putting that unit back into our general EMS system, without any layoffs, and actually improving our bottom line and response time compliance in the process. In fact, I didn’t even think that the Council’s decision would register with our staff, and I expected to notify everyone about the change on Friday in my regular news email update.
Unfortunately, this was three days too long. Our staff was watching this much more closely than I had anticipated, and by mid-day on Wednesday, it had blown up on social media. One of our employees was apparently gloating at what was perceived as a loss for the department by linking to “Another One Bites the Dust” and predicting the downfall of the department. The rumors about reduction in service, abandoning the town, layoffs, and cascading effects spun out of control. By the time I realized this, it was too late. Of course, I immediately sent out a bulletin to everyone with the information that I intended to send out on Friday explaining what transpired, but I was in damage control mode.
This wasn’t a fatal error, of course. A few of my employees got a black eye with management, but nothing long-term. The town got their ambulance service from a neighbor, and we went on with our business. But it taught me the value of being proactive in distributing information to our staff, much earlier than I would have expected, and in responding as quickly as possible to any rumors or issues that threaten or arise. I never would have expected to have to jump on an issue like this, not to mention how fast I needed to.
Lesson learned – I do my best to get out in front of ANY messaging like this now, now matter how much I think it might be a small issue.