Agreement reached between hospital, island fire districts

After months of negotiating, North and Central Whidbey fire districts have reached agreements to continue longstanding deals with the hospital for ambulance staffing.

During discussions, Whidbey-Health considered ending the inter-local contracts with both districts, which would have resulted in a significant loss in revenue for the fire departments. Instead, the hospital will pay $281,000 to Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue to staff a basic life support, or BLS, ambulance with two firefighters/EMTs through Dec. 31, 2020.

North Whidbey Fire and Rescue will continue to staff two ambulances with four personnel in its new contract for $563,000.

In early June, hospital officials notified the districts they preferred to let the original agreements sunset and staff the ambulances with WhidbeyHealth employees. The proposal did include some monetary contribution for emergency services, but would’ve resulted in the elimination of multiple positions in both districts.

North Whidbey Fire would have lost most or all of its part-time staff, according to fire district Commissioner Marvin Koorn.

The ambulances are kept at the district’s Taylor Road and Monroe Landing Road stations, with part-time staff available to man them at all times.

Koorn said the arrangement allows for a quicker response time. With the increase in revenue from the final contract, Central Whidbey Fire Chief Ed Hartin said he will hire two more full-time firefighters.

Had the original proposal to sunset the agreement gone through, the district would have likely eliminated several part-time positions and the deputy chief position.

“Overall, I think it was a win-win for us and the hospital,” Hartin said.

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