SJ EMS Chief quits; recommends EMS join Fire Department

San Juan Island Emergency Medical Services Chief Jerry Martin submitted his resignation at the Wednesday, October 25, 2017 San Juan County Public Hospital District #1 Board meeting. The PHD board, after selecting him from a group of 15 candidates,  had voted unanimously to hire him on October 28, 2015. 

At the end of his report to the PHD board at the October 25, 2017 meeting, Martin said, "This isn't on my agenda, I am submitting to you guys my notice of resignation. To be effective Feb. 1 of next year. Gives us three months of finding a new chief if that is what you want to do. I think this gives us three months to look at consolidating with the fire department with a contract. Our attorney says a contract could be written up in three months. I think that is a good form we should look at."

With his voice breaking, he said, "I want to thank you for allowing for me to work for you guys, work for the public. Thank you very much."

Commission Chair Bill Williams said, "I received your letter and accepted with regret."

He offered a motion for the board to accept the letter of resignation. "You've expressed your interest in working with us. I think that'll be necessary. I propose we establish a special board meeting to develop a succession plan. Lot of options we could do. Want to include you in that process. Get some outside help to help us through that."

Commissioner Dr. J Michael Edwards said, "I participated in the process of recruiting Chief Martin. That worked out very well..." Concerned about cost of hiring outside help, he said, "I'm going to vote against this motion."

Commissioner Mark Schwinge said, "Instead of hastening to hire a very expensive consultant, instead we give some time for another process to work that might include incorporation of EMS under Fire District #3 (San Juan Island Fire and Rescue Department)." 

Schwinge said. "We run the risk of micro-managing the chief yet again. It's his agency. He's made a suggestion we evalutate some sort of contractural short term arrangement with another district in the county. I'd like to ask the chief what he recommends."

Chief Martin said, "I think there's options. I think that we have, there are folks that are within the department that could step up. I think eventually we need to go to the Fire Department.  I think that is where we would be best serving our residents and visitors. I would say we should go to them... Looking at the Fire Department is the option we should open up discussions with and then to see if they are interested. If they are not, in the next couple of three months, open up and talk to Tom (consultant)."

Commissioner Monica Harrington said, "My comment is that if it is not appropriate for the board to be deeply involved in such a big decision as to whether or not  EMS is a stand alone organization or joins the fire department, I don't know what a board is for. I don't think that is micromanaging at all...I think your recommendation is one  we should take a very strong look at."

She emphasized the need to have the community at large involved. "We need to get those conversations started soon." 

Barbara Sharp agreed with Harrington. "We need to look at this head on. The Chief has  some excellent points we need to consider. But again that needs to be done right away, like yesterday."

The board decided to set up a special meeting sans consultant to discuss the options of moving SJ EMS to the fire department or hiring a new chief and continuing on as a separate organization. 

Edwards suggested having two PHD board members meet with SJI Fire and Rescue Commissioner Bob Jarman, who is on the 'White Paper' committee that is looking into consolidation of EMS with the Fire Department. He was concerned about issues involving individual staff members career plans that he thought were important considerations but not something the people involved would want discussed candidly in public. 

Harrington said, "I would prefer we have the discussion with the board in the public. My view on this is it is such a big change and I believe in being transparent."

Schwinge said, "Evaluating feasibility I think should precede public meetings. I think we should talk to fire districts plural and see what is possible... Chief already has contacts with other fire departments chiefs. It is a good beginning, we need to leverage that. Need to let him take the lead on the process. So a discreet meeting with the Chief, with perhaps Bob Jarman and  a couple of commissioners if necessary. We already have a public process taking place with the White Paper process... It is a public process with fire chiefs of the fire districts as well as the EMS chief and Bob Jarman. I think that is a pretty good nucleus."

Sharp said, "I think it would be possible to kind of split things here, have an initial meeting with two commissioners from our board and one from Fire District #3 and after that have it public." 

Williams said, "Probably should take first step. I would support  two and one approach to it and then  move right from there to next step."

Under the Open Public Meeting Act, only two of the five PHD commissioners can meet with one of the three fire department commissioners out of sight of the public. More than that constitutes a public meeting. 

The board voted 4-1 (Harrington voted against the motion) to hold the private meeting first. Commissioners Edwards and Williams will represent the PHD.

1 comment

  • C Mitchell Shlosser
    C Mitchell Shlosser Thursday, 26 October 2017 17:07 Comment Link

    Dear Fire & EMS Commissioners,

    Having recently retired from Seattle Fire/Medic One as a Senior FF/Paramedic for nearly 40 years, I can offer some insight to the Fire based EMS model of Seattle.
    Community commitment to a fire based EMS has value beyond the fire suppression/inspection activities we so often ascribe to Firefighters. Should our Island Community choose this path of consolidation, I can attest to the career long benefits of FF/Medics serving well beyond 25 years. Not all FFs need be PMs, as this becomes a skill degradation exercise. Keeping those trained to the level of an Advanced Mobile Intensive Care Medic, while serving alongside EMTs, will be the balance you seek. Along with active support by good citizen CPR, I believe our community can come to appreciate the best of both services combined.

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