On May 5, the San Juan Public Hospital District Commissioners took an action we should all applaud. They voted unanimously to withdraw the agreement concerning the integration of the San Juan Island Emergency Medical Service and Fire District No. 3 and to direct EMS staff to suspend all discussions and activities related to the possible integration.
Last November, three of the five previous commissioners, on their way out of office, signed and sent on to FD#3 an ill-conceived and grossly one-sided agreement. Essentially, it would have handed EMS over to FD#3, despite the fact that 80% of the emergency calls in the district are medical and only 20% are fire. Commissioners AnnaLisa Lindstrum (still on the commission) and Dr. Warren Appleton opposed the agreement.
A major factor in the PHD’s recent decision was the obvious need for the PHD and EMS to focus their attention on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. But, beginning even before taking office, all the current PHD commissioners have expressed concern about the agreement itself and the integration process. Much of the detailed and impressive plan for integration developed by the Citizen’s Advisory Group was disregarded. And most of what the PHD commissioners repeatedly asked the two chiefs to produce, such as a three-year projected integration budget and staffing plan, was never forthcoming.
I was an opponent of integration when this discussion began, in part, because I was here in the early 1990s when EMS separated from Fire, with justification, in my opinion. It was an unpleasant divorce. However, after sitting in on the CAG meetings over the course of a year, I changed my mind. I decided it could work if it was done properly. Unfortunately, what I’ve observed so far from both the former PHD commissioners and the FD#3 leadership is essentially a ham-handed approach with very little meaningful effort or transparency. So I’ve come full circle. I think integration is not in the best interest of the community.
I commend and thank the Public Hospital District commissioners for its action.
San Juan Island