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Oak Harbor overlooks $131,000 in fees

For three years in a row, the city of Oak Harbor missed out in collecting thousands of dollars in fees from Whidbey General Hospital for emergency medical services.

Now the elected officials at each entity are going to consider a new interlocal agreement for emergency medical services, but Mayor Scott Dudley promises that the reimbursement system will go more smoothly from now on.

“I don’t know how that could have been overlooked, but it won’t happen again,” he said.

Exactly how $131,000 in fees went uncollected, or unpaid, for three years without anyone noticing is unclear, though the hospital has now paid the bill in full.

Dudley said Fire Chief Ray Merrill corrected the oversight after he was hired in March.

According to a hospital spokesperson, the contract with the city expired during Mayor Jim Slowik’s tenure and so the fees were not paid. The spokesperson said the oversight was discovered by the hospital last year. Negotiations to settle the matter were not settled until after Dudley took office.

Merrill explained that the Oak Harbor Fire Department entered into an agreement with the hospital in the early 1990s to provide backup life support in the city.

Under the agreement, paramedics from the hospital are dispatched first to health-related calls in the city, but they can call the fire department if extra help is needed or if they can’t make it to a call. The fire department bills the hospital on a per-call basis, Merrill said, which amounts to about $40,000 to $50,000 every year.

The hospital didn’t pay the city from 2009 to 2011.

Merrill said a new interlocal contract was negotiated. It is scheduled for adoption in November.

 

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