As a resident of San Juan Island for 28 years, a practicing family physician at the Inter Island Medical Center from 1990 to 1997, a member of the original Hospital District Board during the early 1990s, and a current member of the San Juan County Board of Health, I want to commend the decision of the San Juan County Public Hospital District No. 1 Board of Commissioners several days ago to select Richard Frazer as Interim Chief of San Juan Island EMS and Dr. Michael Sullivan as the supervising physician. Their complementary experience and expertise in administration, management, and emergency medical care will help to chart future directions for Emergency Medical Services and establish ongoing financial stability.
EMS on this island has a long and proud history from its beginnings under the leadership of Frank Wilson. Our Hospital District was formed in 1990 when the Inter Island Medical Center was threatened by closure due to serious budget shortfalls, in turn due to inadequate reimbursement for its essential services. District tax monies allowed the facility to stay open with excellent primary and emergency care. We did a study in 1994 of the survival of island residents after cardiac arrest that showed that we had the best survival rate of any rural area in the country, even equivalent to that in Seattle, due primarily to our outstanding emergency services. Local community leadership was key to the successful functioning of the Hospital District. The chair person over many of the years since 1990 has not been a physician, but in each case a leader experienced in management who was able to ask the right questions and bring to bear the necessary expertise to deal with adversities.
Recent years have seen inflation of the EMS budget beyond its essential needs, as well as questionable billing practices that led the State Attorney General to investigate these practices (still pending) and an unfair contract with Island Air that required it to launch its own very effective fixed wing medical evacuation program.
I attended the last meeting of the District Board, which was controversial over whether to select an internal candidate as EMS chief or an outside candidate, Rick Frazer. The Board made the right decision, difficult as it was, and we are fortunate to have such a great team in Rick Frazier and Dr. Sullivan to move ahead in a way that meets the needs of all islanders and continues the long tradition of excellent EMS services here.
John Geyman, M.D.