EMS and fire merger suspension right step | Letter

EMS and fire merger suspension right step | Letter

The week before last, Public Hospital District #1 Commissioners took three important and very welcome steps on behalf of our community. In a unanimous vote, they set aside for the time being all efforts to integrate San Juan Island EMS with Fire District #3. They provided for the possibility of taking up the effort again when both agencies agree the time is right to do so. And they withdrew from consideration the Interlocal Agreement for the integration of the two agencies signed by the Hospital District in November 2019.

These actions seem to be the right steps for this time. They allow the District, and EMS staff and volunteers in particular, to focus on the extraordinary demands of the current COVID-19 emergency, taking special care for personal and public safety.

As for integration, now is not the time to undertake a major change in an agency that is at the forefront of a declared health emergency and that functions well. EMS does not need fixing right now. Further, resources essential to a major change like integration, including reliable financial projections, are really just guesswork for the next year if not longer. Comprehensive management plans, including labor union actions, are impacted as well. Public agencies will have to deal with what is predicted to be a significant downturn in revenues in coming months and perhaps years. This level of uncertainty dictates a hold on integration.

Also, the possibility of annexation of the Town of Friday Harbor into Fire District #3 must be decided by voter as a critical financial piece of the integration process. Postponement of the April Special Election means that voter preference for or against annexation will not be known until early August, if then. This is one more reason why the Hospital District steps are important.

I support these steps wholeheartedly as prudent management of San Juan Island Emergency Medical Service.

If you agree, please tell Pam Hutchins, PHD Superintendent at hutchins@sjcphd1.org and tell her. She will forward your message to the Commissioners.

Karin Agosta

San Juan Island