Fire/EMS Merger Disintegrates | Letter

Fire/EMS Merger Disintegrates | Letter

The unilateral action of the San Juan Island Hospital District to suspend the agreement to integrate San Juan Island EMS with San Juan Island Fire and Rescue is a setback for the health and safety of our community.

The rationale for this action was the delay in the planned ballot measure for the annexation of the Town of Friday Harbor into the San Juan Island Fire District, and other disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The counterparties could have mutually agreed to delay the merger to a more opportune time. Unfortunately, the Hospital Board took its action unilaterally, without consulting with the Fire District.

The planned merger agreement, known as the Interlocal Agreement, was made by both boards in November 2019. Since then, both agencies have worked well together under the excellent leadership of their new chiefs. And, SJI Fire and Rescue has stepped up to provide Basic Life Support on EMS call responses. Covid-19 emergency policies are uniform for both agencies, and the community has come to understand that integration would be good for all of us.

The reasons for integration are as valid today as they were when the Citizens Advisory Group started its work two years ago. These include: mutual training, shared economies of scale and unified command and control. Who will come to our rescue when we have another disaster like the current pandemic? Consolidated Fire/EMS has proven to be the optimal emergency service model throughout our state and nation.

Let’s get back to working together for the health and safety of our community.

Loren Johnson, MD

Friday Harbor