(Editor’s note: This letter was written prior to the San Juan Island Public Hospital District 1 Chairman Bill Williams resigned and EMS Chief Jerry Martin rescinded his resignation.)
In response to Monica Harrington’s recent letter decrying the financial condition of SJIEMS:
1. Virtually all of the administrative staff at SJIEMS have been replaced and a recovery plan implemented with good success. Why does Harrington continue to pretend that nothing has changed?
2. We have lost our highly qualified and experienced Chief Jerry Martin primarily because of the adversarial style of the chairman of the PHD board. Why is this inappropriate behavior tolerated?
3. Some members of our organization have expressed fears that their jobs may be threatened if they speak out. Harrington has publicly stated that this is a false claim. This is astonishing behavior on the part of a public official.
4. Rick Frazer has been appointed by the PHD board as the SJIEMS “interim” chief. Frazer has no ground 911 experience and is not a paramedic or even an EMT. We cannot afford to be without a chief who can respond as a supervising medic and who has run the field operations of a full-service 911 response organization.
5. Over the last four days, Jan. 19 and 23, we have had 24 calls, sometimes with only one medic available on shift. Without a paramedic-qualified chief, we cannot manage these surges.
6. Approximately 25 percent of our calls are double calls (or more) — where a second page is sounded while we are working the first call. We often need an additional medic over and above whomever is on shift. Without a medic-qualified chief, we are going to come up short on at least some of these calls.
7. Well over 90 percent of EMS services in the U.S. are provided by fire-based EMS outfits. Fire District 3 is currently entertaining a possible “merger” of SJIEMS. I fully support this proposed merger as the best possible strategic plan to continue to provide the first-class EMS services that we islanders have enjoyed for three decades. SJIEMS is still ranked among the top rural EMS service providers in the nation in spite of past management missteps. We need to maintain that level of competency.
Francis G. Smith
Senior EMT, San Juan Island EMS