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Sedgwick County Removes EMS Director Amid Investigation Into Department

Dr. John Gallagher
Sedgwick County
Dr. John Gallagher

Sedgwick County Manager Tom Stolz said Wednesday he removed EMS Director John Gallagher “after much thought, investigation and proper due process.”

Sedgwick County has removed EMS director John Gallagher and will revert to a previous service model to deliver emergency medical care.

County Manager Tom Stolz made the announcement Wednesday following two executive sessions by county commissioners totaling 80 minutes. Stolz had placed Gallagher on paid administrative leave on Monday.

Stolz said the decision to remove Gallagher came “after much thought, investigation and proper due process.”

The county has hired a Wichita law firm to conduct an investigation into the department. The report is still pending.

The county merged the EMS Department and the Office of the Medical Director in 2019. Gallagher, who led the Office of Medical Director, was named head of the new organization.

The move was criticized at the time by many EMS employees, who also were critical of Gallagher’s leadership.

“It was my personal hope that professional leadership, in conjunction with professional staff, would rise to the occasion and create an atmosphere of superior service for the citizens of Sedgwick County,” Stolz said of the merger.

“Unfortunately, that did not happen in this endeavor, for which I am sorry.”

Deputy EMS Director Paul Misasi and EMS Col. Bill Robben are currently running the department. Stolz said the county will begin a search for an interim director immediately.

He said a regional search for a new EMS director will follow. The search committee will include EMS employees.

Stoltz said Carolina Pereira will serve as interim Medical Director until September. She resigned earlier this month as deputy medical director.

Stolz also said the county will create an EMS citizen review and advisory board. It will include health professionals, EMS employees and citizens.

The Wichita Eagle recently published a series of articles that highlighted slow response times by the department and high turnover among employees, much of it related to unhappiness with management.

Many EMS employees had communicated their displeasure with Gallagher to Commissioner Jim Howell. He asked Stolz last week to make any necessary changes to EMS leadership.

Commissioner Sarah Lopez said the county has work to do to regain the confidence of county residents.

“I hope the changes that are being implemented now help build back the trust, from not only internally … but also that this will help build the trust with our community again because that’s extremely important,” she said.

The Sedgwick County Commission formally accepted EMS director John Gallagher's resignation on Friday.

Gallagher was placed on paid administrative leave Monday.

The county says it will pay Gallagher about $85,000 dollars, roughly 4 months of his salary.

The county says it expects to name an interim EMS director next week.

Katelynn McIlwain is a senior at the University of Missouri majoring in journalism (with a magazine writing emphasis) and minoring in digital storytelling. When she’s on campus, she works as an intern at the MU News Bureau and as a resident advisor for MU Residential Life. She is also a member of the Alpha Omega campus ministry.
Tom joined KMUW in 2017 after spending 37 years with The Wichita Eagle where he held a variety of reporting and editing roles. He also is host of The Range, KMUW’s weekly show about where we live and the people who live here. Tom is an adjunct instructor in the Elliott School of Communication at Wichita State University.