Last month, WhidbeyHealth announced it would terminate in December an 11-year agreement with Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue for ambulance staffing. Under the contract, CWFR staffs a basic life-support ambulance for the hospital. When not responding to ambulance calls, the emergency medical technicians are cross-trained as firefighters, thereby being more valuable and more cost-effective to both public agencies.
This local government partnership reduces response times, improves quality of patient care and is financially beneficial for the taxpayers.
But now, without explanation, the hospital has threatened to end the mutually beneficial services accord.
Currently, all other fire agencies on Whidbey Island, except Navy Region Northwest, have similar EMS arrangements with the hospital.
Why is CWFR suddenly different? What prompted the change? The CWFR board of commissioners and fire chief asked several times for the rationale or justification, but without response from hospital management. Because of the national downward trend of citizens willing to serve as volunteer firefighters, CWFR has had to hire more full-time and part-time firefighters just to be able to respond to the ever-increasing number of 911 calls.
The loss of contract revenue to CWFR will be devastating, including the elimination of six part-time firefighters and the only deputy fire chief — all gone.
Through the existing deal, CWFR is striving to reduce EMS system fragmentation and eliminate redundancy in service delivery. Dissolving the current agreement will only waste taxpayer dollars and decrease service levels from unnecessary duplication.
For the economic good of the community and continued safety of the public, the hospital should continue the existing integrated service arrangement with the fire district.
If WhidbeyHealth chooses to end the partnership with Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue, it should at least explain to the taxpayers the reason why.
Chris S. Geiger