EMTs express their concerns | Guest column

Clarification: The following guest column from the Sept. 23 edition was submitted by printed letter to the Journal and was sent to the public hospital district commissioners, making it public record. The original letter sent to the Journal was disposed of, so whoever physically mailed the letter is unknown. EMT Herb Mason, one of the letter’s signatories, requested of the Journal that it be clarified that the letter was not intended as a vote of no confidence in the commissioners but to open a dialog between the EMTs and the PHD regarding recent decisions. He also noted he had not agreed to the letter being published in the newspaper.

In the future, if a letter to the editor is signed by multiple people, each person whose signature appears on the letter must contact the Journal directly to provide their permission for the letter to run. Thank you.

Submitted by a coalition of emergency medical technicians

The purpose of this letter is to communicate serious concerns we have with the administration, leadership, and culture at San Juan Island EMS. We believe that unqualified leadership in control of San Juan Island EMS will exacerbate existing flaws in the organization.

Our primary concerns are as follows:

• Unsafe practices in communications and operations on the scene, including (but not limited to) a continued failure to properly use the chain of command within the Incident Command System.

• A general agency culture that does not promote responder safety: physically or mentally.

• Fear of retaliation for speaking up.

• No mechanism for self-improvement or change within the agency, perpetuated by an ongoing culture where we explain away problems and make people feel good at the expense of critically analyzing agency issues and engaging in healthy change processes.

• Lack of transparency and volunteer involvement in agency change, a failure to acknowledge volunteer concerns, and responses that diminish or dismiss concerns.

• Lack of clear protocols/policy, and a failure to follow protocols/policies that do exist.

• Unclear organizational chart/chain of command within the agency regarding training, administration, and operations resulting in poor and confusing communications at the administrative, operational and response levels.

• ALS emphasis in training and on scenes hampering EMTs’ opportunities to build skills and failing to empower EMTs as BLS providers.

We believe the responders AND the community deserve the following from the administration and leadership of San Juan Island EMS:

• Stewardship of taxpayers’ money/fiscal responsibility.

• Strong leadership with relevant knowledge, experience, and skills.

• Emergency response that keeps our responders safe.

• An emergency response system willing and able to adapt to changing community needs.

• Seamless response to complex scenes.

Many of these concerns/frustrations have existed among the membership for a long time.

Despite our concerns and frustration, we keep serving our community. In light of recent Board decisions, we believe it is time to take action. We do not trust that the current administration/leadership are willing, or able, to address our concerns in a timely manner, nor that decisions are being made with our best interests in mind. We are discouraged by the failure to acknowledge our feedback or concerns in a meaningful and timely way.

We request to know exactly what your short, and long, term plans are to address these issues.

A representative group of the signees below are able to meet with the administration, starting immediately, to address all of the noted concerns.

We will continue to serve our community.

Signed: Aian Arrowsmith, EMT, 2020-present; Trevor Bolton, EMT, 2019-present; Christine Bush, support officer, 2017-present; Gabrielle Conway, EMT, 2014-present; Hella Cascorbi, EMT, 2019-present; Robin DeLazerda, EMT, 2014-present; Thomas E. Eades, EMT, 1990-present; Austin Foster, EMT, 2019-present; Brooks Friedland, EMT, 2018-present; Erin C. Graham, EMT, 2016-present; Adam Greene, REMT, 2018-present; Madeline Harmon, EMT, 2012-present; Michael Hartzell, EMT, 2014-present; Michael Henderson, EMT, 2011 -present; Herb Mason, EMT, 1985-present; Tad Lean, EMT, 2005-present; John Salinas, EMT, 2019-present; Kathleen Salinas, EMT, 2019-present; Brooke Sevier, EMT, 2020-present; Gilbert Venegas, EMT, 2019-present; and Matthew Wickey, EMT, 2017-present.