Medic One down two paramedics; services to continue

Stephen Floyd

Lewis County Medic One has accepted the resignation of two paramedics since last month, though officials say the public should expect no interruptions in local ambulance services.

Accepted by the Medic One Interlocal Board on May 20 and June 17, the resignations, which had reportedly come about for personal reasons, leave the agency with seven full-time paramedics out of nine, and Operations Chief Grant Wiltbank said his remaining employees are working extra shifts to continue 24/7 coverage.

“Our paramedics have been really pretty good about covering these shifts,” he said, adding mutual aid agreements with agencies in Chehalis and Castle Rock additionally allow for units from these areas to respond if Medic One becomes overwhelmed.

Wiltbank said it is his expectation the open positions will be filled within the next 60 days, or sooner, adding the hiring timeline will be clearer as more applications are accepted. Once a candidate is seen as qualified to fill the vacancy, Wiltbank said he will seek authorization from the interlocal board before extending an offer of employment.

Medic One had endured most of last year with eight out of nine paramedics, as two of the three members of the interlocal (Lewis County Fire District 15, in Winlock, and Cowlitz/Lewis Fire District 20, in Vader and Ryderwood) had stated at the time they intended to withdraw in 2014 if their concerns about financial management were not addressed.

Until Districts 15 and 20 agreed to remain and the future of the agency appeared clearer, Wiltbank said he did not feel it would be appropriate to fill the position, which had been vacated that February, and it was not until July when the withdrawal letters were rescinded, though the position was not filled until the beginning of this year due to further financial uncertainties.

The cause of the discord between member districts had been a request for District 15 and Lewis County Fire District 2, in Toledo, to help cover an estimated financial shortfall of $45,000 for the year, though Medic One had originally been designed to not require such contributions from the districts.

Between increasing costs of medical supplies and decreasing compensation through Medicare and Medicaid, Wiltbank said it was no longer feasible for Medic One to be self-sustaining, and it was eventually agreed all three member districts would pay for the expected shortfall based on the volume of calls within each area.

At the end of 2013, Medic One also lost a funding source when Morton General Hospital cancelled its contract for services in light of the increasing shortage of local EMTs to assist with transports, and it was decided Districts 15 and 2 would each contribute $50,000 this year to sustain a ninth paramedic position within the agency.