Submitted by San Juan County Public Hospital District No. 1 and San Juan Island EMS.
In July 2021, the elected board of San Juan County Public Hospital No. 1 voted to move forward with the integration of EMS under San Juan Island Fire and Rescue. This requires a new EMS levy under the Fire District to replace ours. There have been a lot of questions about how this works.
San Juan County Public Hospital District No. 1 is responsible for San Juan Island EMS, which includes the only EMS transport and Advanced Life Support (ALS) services on San Juan Island, as well as Johns, Henry, Stuart, Pearl, Brown, and several less inhabited islands. ALS is the paramedic level of care, which includes intubations, an array of medications, and other more advanced interventions such as the use of ventilators and ultrasounds in the field.
The hospital district is very proud of its EMS service! In monthly surveys by EMS Survey Team that compare us to 179 other services, we were recently ranked as fifth for comparably sized organizations in the system, and seventh against all other organizations in their database. Many rural areas cannot provide an ALS level of care, and we are able to do so because of a public that believes in the importance of EMS. Our strength is our people, and the Fire District will be taking them on in the event of integration.
San Juan Island EMS relies on funding for the hospital district’s EMS levy (one of two levies that it has). This is a six-year, renewable levy, that expires at the end of 2022. It began at $0.50 and has gradually fallen to about $0.38 as property values have risen. Money is set aside early in the levy cycle to ensure financial stability towards the end of the levy cycle as costs rise more quickly than revenue. Then, funding is replenished via a renewal vote.
If integration does not take place, San Juan Island EMS is likely to need a levy renewal in 2022 between $0.45 and $0.50. The agreement between the hospital district and San Juan Island Fire and Rescue requires that they set their EMS levy rate in this range. This was to ensure that they can afford to provide a similar level of service going forward and sustain it over the following six years of the levy cycle without additional revenue.
If the Fire District’s EMS levy passes, the hospital district will stop providing EMS service at the end of 2022 and will not renew its levy. The Fire District will begin providing those services when their levy takes effect on Jan. 1, 2023. It is not possible to levy more than $0.50 in EMS levies for any given jurisdiction.
The hospital district’s other levy currently funds its non-EMS operations, including financial support for PeaceHealth Peace Island Medical Center (PIMC). However, it does not operate PIMC, and support for PIMC will be ongoing regardless. The District has submitted a levy lid lift to fund long-term care, beginning with the acquisition and expansion of the Village at the Harbor. However, its long-term care project is separate from the integration of EMS and Fire and deal with different levies.
Many documents relating to these projects are available on the respective agency websites (sjcphd.org and sjifire.org).