Brennan’s letter invokes alarm where there is none | Guest Column

An EMS vehicle

By J. Michael Edwards

SJCPHD #1 Chairman

(Editor’s note: You can find Leslie Brennan’s statement here.)

Leslie Brennan recently alleged that San Juan Island EMS is insolvent. Based on her review of budget projections through June 2015, she also questioned the Public Hospital District #1 Commissioners’ oversight of the EMS budget. Assertions should have a foundation in fact. Unfortunately, Ms. Brennan has misunderstood much: both allegations are false.

Budgets project expenses and income based on historical data. Referencing the budget, SJIEMS in 2013 initiated a first round of belt tightening, and in 2014 made further cuts to pay and benefits totaling 8.5 percent.

In February 2015, former EMS Chief Jim Cole judiciously hired Wier Management Solutions to review budget estimates and identify ways to address declining revenues and increasing costs.  For all of 2015, WMS projected a deficit of $174,000 and substantiated SJIEMS and Commissioners’ action in reducing expenses.

The revised 2015 numbers through June, received by the commissioners from WMS, reflect actual year-to-date expenditures and income, and show a surplus of $149K.

Brennan calls for further cuts to the EMS budget. Her alarmist declaration that EMS is going bankrupt hardly is true, or helpful. The EMS budget has increased since 2010, reflecting the development of an excellent air ambulance component. While expenses have increased, so too has EMS value to every islander. Brennan’s call for draconian cuts ignores the larger picture of additional EMS services.

SJIEMS has funds available to support its current award winning operations. At the same time, we do need to strengthen EMS financial reserves.  A study has been commissioned to analyze comparable wage and benefits. The PHD Commissioners have contracted WMS to conduct such a study.

Brennan expressed concern about the commissioners’ few questions regarding the budget. Commissioners do their homework, and closely review the work of WMS and the EMS administrative team, especially following the departure of Chief Cole. Preparation before meetings reduces questions. Brennan seems unaware of the many hours given by commissioners to accomplish their tasks.

Brennan asked about the departure of Chief Cole. He chose to accept an opportunity for professional advancement with an out of state hospital system.

The public indeed should expect much from our EMS, its administration, and all elected officials. We also should expect critics and candidates to care enough to discover and honor the truth, instead of startling the public with misinformation campaigns.

EMS is solvent. Externally audited accounts speak for themselves. And Hospital District Commissioners are doing their often-difficult jobs and asking all necessary questions.

To get the facts, call or email our EMS agency or San Juan County Public Hospital Commissioners. Check SJCPHD.org or SJIEMS.org websites for financial documentation. Thanks to Brennan’s earlier suggestion, PHD board meetings are filmed and shown here.