San Juan County Public Hospital District #1 Board approved the $2,950,471 San Juan Island EMS 2019 budget for 2019 at its regular meeting on November 28, 2018. The budget includes funding for two more paid Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) and $69,600 for severance for Chief Jerry Martin.
The Chief hasn't offered his resignation but the payment, equal to six months salary, was included in the budget at Hospital Commissioner Michael Edwards request. The chief had resigned last year and then ended up staying on.
Even though officially there is no announcement of a resignation, the PHD Board voted 3-2 on a process to hire an interim chief. Commissioners Edwards, Mark Schwinge, Rebecca Smith voted to interview three internal candidates for the position. Commissioners Warren Appleton and Anna Lisa Lindstrum voted against the motion.
Edwards noted everything is in flux. The PHD and San Juan Island Fire District are considering a possible move of EMS to the fire department. A committee of citizens is researching the feasibility of a merger, consolidation, contract or staying as is.
The rationale for hiring two more full-time paid EMTs is that response times would improve. The response times are within standards. The average response time in town is 7 minutes 56 seconds for an ambulance to arrive on scene and 7:09 for a paramedic. The average response time in the unincorporated part of San Juan Island is 12:19 for an ambulance.
"This would get our rigs out the door faster," Chief Martin said. He would not hazard a guess on how many minutes faster.
There are paid EMTs already working during the day. Still to be determined is if the EMTs would work 24-hour shifts or if there would be day and night shifts.
Funding for the move to having EMTs at the EMS building 24/7 is possible due to additional revenue. Tax revenue increased due to additional construction and a 1 percent increase in the dollar amount SJ EMS receives in property tax. A decrease in the amount paid for stipends for volunteer EMTs was also factored in.
SJ EMS also started receiving funding from the state's Health Authority's Ground Emergency Medical Transportation (GEMT) program. It provides supplemental funding to cover the costs of transporting medicaid patients. Instead of covering only 40 percent of the $4,026 cost of transport via San Juan Island EMS ambulance, it pays 90 percent. The program is a result of state legislation and the Affordable Care Act. The program provided $20,000 extra for SJ EMS each month it was in effect in 2018.
The 2019 budget of $2,950,471 compares to the amended 2018 budget which was $2,797,467 and the actual 2017 budget of $2,845,956.
The budget can be viewed on the PHD website. http://sjcphd.org/ems
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