EMS works to renew levy in upcoming election

With the EMS Fire merger in the rearview mirror, San Juan Island EMS is now prioritizing campaigning for the renewal of a levy.

If it is not passed by the end of 2022, EMS services will be shut down on San Juan Island.

“I think there’s just a lot of confusion surrounding the levy,” said Anna Lisa Lindstrum, Hospital District Board Chair.

Lindstrum said she’d like to make clear that EMS is not proposing a new levy, but is renewing one that has been in place since 2016. It will be on the Feb. 8 ballot.

Lindstrum explained that the proposed levy is a reduction from what it is currently in effect. In 2016 it was passed at $0.50 per $1,000 property value. That levy ends on Dec. 31, 2022. EMS is now asking for a renewal of $0.45 per $1,000 property value, which, if approved, would be in place until Dec. 31, 2028.

The levy is $0.05 lower than in 2016 because tax collection is adjusted based on increasing property values.

“We began at $0.50 and because property values have climbed, it is adjusted to $0.38,” explained Lindstrum. “We are now asking for $0.45 and the same will happen as property values continue to rise. We are asking for the extra $0.07 to pay for increased cost of medicine, supplies, and to pay for a fifth paramedic.”

San Juan Island EMS is a county agency that provides advanced life support rescue and transport to the residents and visitors of the Town of Friday Harbor, San Juan Island and the outer islands of Brown, Henry, Pearl, Speiden, Johns and Stuart. Its staff includes both EMTs and paramedics. It is the only organization on the island that provides ALS services such as ventilator support, intubations and ultrasound.

San Juan County Public Hospital District No. 1 currently operates San Juan Island EMS. The district will officially close its deal with the Village at the Harbor on February 28, 2022 to expand long-term care. The district has a separate levy that helps to fund PeaceHealth Peace Island Medical Center, but it is unrelated to the EMS levy renewal.

There are around 200 items on the levy budget. Some of those include EMS equipment, radio equipment, medical equipment, EMS equipment maintenance and repair, off-island transfers, marine/boat fees, electrical costs, water and sewer costs, garbage costs, station repairs and maintenance, station suuplies, public training supplies and equipment, insurance, retirement outreach costs, fuel, sick days, vehicle insurance, outreach jobs, and fuel and oil.

A unique part about San Juan EMS is its zero co-pay or co-insurance policy for ambulance services to San Juan Island residents. If the levy is renewed, then this policy will continue.

“I just don’t want people to ever feel worried about calling 911 because they’re worried about cost,” said Public Hospital District Superintendent Nathan Butler.

More information on the levy, including the budget, can be found at www.sanjuanems.org. Both Lindstrum and Butler encourage residents to visit the website.

“I do feel that people are really supportive of EMS here,” said Lindstrum. “And it is especially important here, just you know, we are far away from a level one trauma care center. We are blessed to have an emergency department here. That pre-hospital emergency care can make a huge difference.”

Sienna Boucher/Staff photo
Sienna Boucher/Staff photo