EMS, prevention coalition to receive remaining public hospital district funds

This year, San Juan County Public Hospital District No. 1 will fund two additional county health providers.

On June 28, commissioners voted, 4-1, to give San Juan Island Emergency Medical Services and San Juan Island Prevention Coalition $5,000 each. The resolution states that the disbursement is up for an annual review, but it does not state it is a contract to fund services.

“$5,000 doesn’t take us too far down the road for these needs, but it’s a start,” said Commissioner Mark Schwinge, who wrote the resolution.

The appropriation uses the remaining $10,000 of the $50,000, commissioners set aside, annually, to fund services not provided by Peace Island Medical Center; $40,000 of those funds will go to the local Planned Parenthood.

The resolution that passed on June 28 states that money allocated to the prevention coalition will “curtail youth substance abuse” and money allocated to EMS will “develop and advance its community paramedicine program.”

According to the resolution, the funded services in the paramedicine program include “fall prevention, a volunteer visiting program and aspects of a palliative care home visiting program.” At the meeting, EMS Chief Jerry Martin said the funds would mostly be used to promote the program.

Since 2009, the district has collected about $1 million from county property taxes to fund health care. All of this money has gone to PIMC, since it opened in 2013, to cover services and bills of patients who cannot afford visits in a 50-year contract.

Last November, they voted to remove $50,000 from the contract to fund services not provided by PIMC.

Last May, in a 3-2 vote, commissioners contracted to annually give $40,000 to the local Planned Parenthood for “sexual health and reproductive health services,” according to the agreement. The contract is for five years.

Commissioners Schwinge and Michael Edwards have supported funding EMS and the prevention coalition since the $50,000 was earmarked for services not provided by PIMC. They did not vote to fund Planned Parenthood or to release the $50,000 from the PIMC original contract.

At the June 28 meeting, Commissioner Barbara Sharp suggested that the entire remaining $10,000 should fund EMS, but that was dismissed in a 3-2 vote.

Commissioner Monica Harrington voted against funding EMS and the prevention coalition at either dollar amount.

“While I find both of these programs very admirable, I’m not quite ready to commit $10,000,” she said.

EMS is already funded to the maximum level allowed by state law, she explained, through a collection of the district’s property taxes; it doesn’t need more money.

She would rather fund local options to fulfill the state’s Death with Dignity Act, which she declared when running for office, she added. According to the Washington Department of Health, “the act allows terminally ill adults, seeking to end their lives, to request lethal doses of medication from…physicians.”

At the meeting, commissioners also passed to renew a line of credit for EMS at Islanders Bank, in case of emergencies, and extended the real estate listing for the shuttered Inter Island Medical Center building on Spring Street for another year. The building has been for sale since 2013.

At the next district meeting, on July 26, commissioners will vote on whether to accept edits to their bylaws. The changes include moving the public comment section from the end of meetings to before new business is discussed. That way, commissioners can hear the public’s testimonies before voting.

For more information on the public hospital district, visit sjcphd.org.