Fire districts negotiate EMS deal with hospital

Under the pressure of increasing call volume and incrementally increasing minimum wage, North and Central Whidbey fire districts are hoping to receive more funding to provide emergency medical services.

The two fire districts are working to negotiate a new deal with WhidbeyHealth for basic life support (BLS) ambulance services; the current contracts have been in place since 2013, according to Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue Chief Ed Hartin.

Hartin said given the rising costs of paying for the staffing to be available for the ambulance, he approached the hospital in 2017 and 2018 seeking to re-negotiate.

“They were not inclined at that point to talk about money,” Hartin said.

This year, Whidbey Health has agreed to discuss the contract and provided a “fairly non-responsive” draft agreement in response to the district’s initial offer.

The Central Whidbey district ensures there are two personnel available to staff a basic life support ambulance at all hours of the day and night.

Hartin said this comes at an approximately $600,000 per year cost, and the hospital provides $201,495.

He said the district commissioners would like the agreement to be more of an equal split between the two agencies.

North Whidbey Fire and Rescue Chief Mark Kirko said his district leadership would also like to see an increase in funding and said there needs to be more clarity about which services are provided.

“We’re trying to make things black and white and get rid of the gray that’s out there,” Kirko said.

The North Whidbey district spends about $760,000 per year to staff two stations and to have four personnel available at all times for BLS services and receives approximately $403,000 from WhidbeyHealth.

Both chiefs said they feel it’s important to continue to provide the emergency services, but they want the revenue to closer match the actual cost of delivering them.

Kirko, Hartin and the chairmen of both districts are in the process of trying to meet with WhidbeyHealth leadership to continue negotiations.

“We want everyone to get the EMS that they need,” Kirko said.

“It’s just a matter of sitting down with WhidbeyHealth to make that work.”

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