A path forward for county EMS

County Fire Districts, Volunteer Ambulance Agency Leaders and Bonner General Health Emergency Department Resolve to Develop EMS Plan

By Mark Sauter
Reader Contributor

The Bonner County fire chiefs and volunteer ambulance agency leaders have met and agreed to develop an EMS service delivery plan. They have teamed up with Dr. Kenneth Gramyk of the BGH Emergency Department and enlisted his support and expertise. The resolution was signed by the fire chiefs, ambulance directors and Gramyk. The plan is expected to take 60-90 days to develop and will be presented to the BOCC upon its completion. 

The resolution was delivered to the Board of County Commissioners at their regular meeting on Feb. 12. 

The resolution efforts by the fire districts and ambulance agencies have been prompted by news of a restructuring of the Bonner County Emergency Medical Services Department by the BOCC.  The local press has covered some of the BOCC comments about their interests in a re-structure of BCEMS. A local radio station has hosted two interviews with the commissioner working most closely on the project. 

The BOCC have not officially identified the problems they have with BCEMS or the solutions they have in mind. One of the commissioners has voiced his interest in transitioning the management and staffing of BCEMS to a private non-profit ambulance provider in Boundary County. 

The Bonner County Fire Chiefs Association members asked to be involved in the project at a BOCC meeting in January. The meeting was initially organized to gather input for the BOCC. However, without a plan or presentation of what the BOCC is considering, the fire district and ambulance agency leaders were at a loss to provide feedback. Last week a commissioner, in a radio interview, stated a business plan for the new EMS venture has been developed. As of now, there have been no copies of the plan available for review.

The emergency response leaders have been concerned about the re-structuring effort since they learned about it last fall. The fire districts and volunteer ambulance agencies provide 24/7 critical and significant service for the county-wide EMS system. Their rapid response is what citizens expect when they dial 911. 

The viewpoint and experience of Gramyk of the Bonner General Health Emergency Room is of great importance for patient care and as the receiving facility for nearly all EMS transports in Bonner County. 

The BCFCA has encouraged the BOCC to maintain the current BCEMS service delivery model and to retain the current invaluable staff of BCEMS while the BCFCA completes their work. An important part of the BCFCA plan will be how to best utilize all of the current BCEMS employees. 

The leaders of the Bonner County emergency service agencies have resolved to develop an EMS plan that works for all the agencies and most importantly for the citizens and visitors of the various districts. Their plan will focus on patient care, best practices and efficiency. The research for the plan and data collection are in progress. The plan will most likely include the utilization of existing paid and volunteer staff.  Stations already owned and used by the fire and ambulance districts will be considered to reduce costs and the duplication of resources. The stations are geographically placed and should help to reduce response times. 

In their resolution the BCFCA vowed to reach out to all recognized stakeholders, to do an inventory of each district’s/agency’s needs and assets and to listen to the concerns of the citizens. A  review of the operational and financial details of all of the County EMS providers will also be completed. 

Mark Sauter retired from his fire service and emergency management career in 2011. He is the elected president of the BCFCA. He works one day a week for the Selkirk FD doing fire prevention work with the community. His work with the BCFCA (and the EMS plan development) is a volunteer effort.

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