Lewis County Medic One is looking at the possibility of reducing its level of service as the number of EMT’s volunteering with local aid agencies is dwindling.
During a meeting of the Interlocal Board Aug. 20, Operations Chief Grant Wiltbank said a number of highly-utilized EMT volunteers are expected to become unavailable next month, reducing the pool of individuals able to assist Medic One paramedics with patient transports.
State law requires either two EMTs in the back with a patient and a trained driver in the front during trauma transportation, or an EMT driving and a single paramedic in the back, meaning at least two medics are required of an aid agency during transportation. Medic One, who employs full-time paramedic staff, depends on volunteer EMTs from member districts in Winlock, Toledo, Vader, and Ryderwood for extra medics on a regular basis.
Wiltbank said, because the departing EMTs used to be regularly available for on-call shifts to transport patients from Morton General Hospital, Medic One may be looking at canceling it’s services to Morton, which stands to decrease agency revenue considerably.
As compensation for the transports, Morton General Hospital has been paying for the employment costs of one medic, with the remainder of fees contributing around $24,000 to general revenues each year. Without the required number of medics available for transportation, Wiltbank said Morton may be off the table and Medic One may need to eliminate a paramedic position.
However, a paramedic position has been open since February and had remained unfilled after Lewis County Fire District 15 and Lewis/Cowlitz Fire District 20 protested the financial management of Medic One, stating they would leave the interlocal if conditions did not improve. Both districts have since rescinded their letters of intent to withdraw, and efforts began again last month to fill the open position. But Wiltbank said he does not currently feel it would be responsible of his office to offer the position given the uncertainties surrounding the future of Morton transports.
"If we can’t run Morton General calls, we’re not going to have the revenue to support that position," he told the board, stating officials have multiple options open to them.
Wiltbank said the member districts could agree to contribute funds based on the volume of calls in their districts to support a paramedic’s position, and Medic One would reimburse the districts using revenue generated from Morton General, so the paramedic’s position would not be in immediate jeopardy if Morton transports were to be cancelled.
He said they could also examine the possibility of eliminating the position and Morton transports all together, but added it remains beneficial to have the extra paramedic available to South Lewis County, as the majority of the ninth paramedic’s time is spent responding in the area and far less on Morton calls.
Board Chair Dale Nielsen asked if it would be possible to eliminate the shifts intended to be covered by the ninth medic and Wiltbank said such a decision would have to be approved beforehand by the paramedic’s union, which was officially formed last month. Nielsen also said he would like to have the issue of hiring or not hiring an extra medic resolved that night as it has been in the lurch for so many months, and Wiltbank reasserted he could not conscionably offer the position to someone when the financial means to support the position remain unsure.
Officials resolved to met with the commissioners of member districts and discuss options, while possibly holding a special meeting of the interlocal board before their regular meeting Sept. 17. Wiltbank said he will speak with Morton General about the issue and hopes to have a plan in place before the winter months when call volumes to Morton are highest.