We are fortunate for our EMS

We are fortunate for our EMS

We have been fortunate for many years to have a dedicated and highly competent emergency medical services organization on San Juan Island. We have benefited from Frank Wilson’s leadership since the 1970s in establishing the framework for today’s organization. As one example of our good fortune, the survival of patients with cardiac arrest has been demonstrated since 1978 to be better than any other rural area in the country, based largely on rapid response times and the competence of responding paramedics and EMTs. Paramedics as well as EMTs respond to every call.

The last several years have seen progress but also some problems with inflated costs and other concerns that led to confusion and failure to pass the last two EMS levies. The past and current budget at 35 cents/$1,000 assessed valuation is not sustainable, would require major cuts in essential services, and leave nothing for capital investment in necessary equipment.

Under the leadership of the newly elected Hospital District Board, which oversees both EMS and the Peace Health Island Medical Center over a 50-year contract, the 2017 EMS budget has been clarified and brought into line with a 50 cents/$1,000 budget without out-of-pocket costs for district islanders. That has required cuts of some administrative positions, but preserves the essential EMS services—basic and advanced life support as well as community education and safety programs, and also allows some funding for capital equipment. As one example of community education programs, more than 1,000 islanders have been trained in CPR and use of automatic defibrillators in the last year.

The 2017 budget has received the unanimous support of the Hospital District commissioners. At this level, taxpayers with a house assessed at $200,000 will pay $100 a year, while those with assessed values of $400,000 pay $200 a year—a great bargain considering what we receive in return. Any lower budget would require cutting or eliminating some programs.

This year’s EMS levy, which goes to a vote on August 2, with ballots mailed out on July 15, is a must pass. Our health and even lives are dependent on its passage.

John and Emily Geyman

San Juan Island