Northwest NEWS

April 16, 2001

Front Page

Consortium tackles Medic One biz plan

by Jeanette Knutson
   Staff Writer
   Last December, Andrew Fallat, Evergreen Hospital Medical Center's chief executive officer, was in a twist because the Medic One program that Evergreen sponsors was losing money.
   His grumblings were not unjustified.
   A year ago there was a $75,000 difference between what the King County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Levy provided and what the actual costs were to deliver Advanced Life Support (ALS) services for the Kirkland, Redmond, Woodinville, Bothell and Duvall area $75,000 that Evergreen had to come up with by itself. And this year's projected shortfall could reach $250,000, said Kendra Weil, hospital spokesperson.
   Fallat's dissatisfaction with Evergreen's Medic One money predicament prompted area fire chiefs to put their heads together. Their goal? To hammer out a business plan that would put the fire service, not the hospital, in the management role. The fire service wanted to lead and operate the Medic One program.
   They figured they could obtain certain economies of scale, said Fire Chief Steve Smith of Woodinville Fire & Life Safety.
   Or make it more cost effective, more efficient, said Fire Chief John Lambert of Fire District 45 in Duvall.
   But since the fire chiefs' initial meetings, a few new players have come to the table: King County Public Hospital District No. 2 (Evergreen Hospital Medical Center); the cities of Bellevue, Bothell, Kirkland and Redmond; and Eastside Fire & Rescue, King County Fire District 45, Northshore Fire Department, Shoreline Fire Department and Woodinville Fire & Life Safety District.
   These public agencies have recently entered into a joint powers agreement. It will be they (along with a King-County-EMS-hired consultant) who forge the business plan for the sponsorship of ALS paramedic services in Northeast King County.
   "Each participant has a firm commitment to the provision of a high-quality ALS service," said John Ryan, Redmond Fire Chief and acting lead of the newly formed consortium. "We believe that a closer integration of Basic Life Support, Advanced Life Support and fire services will result in improved services to the community."
   Evergreen's Fallat said, "We have a 25-year commitment to the paramedic program that remains strong. We are very interested in working with the other emergency services providers in the area, however, to develop an organization that can enhance this already excellent service to our community."
   According to a statement issued by the consortium, the group has given itself until August to craft its business plan. Once completed, each agency the city councils of the participating cities, the boards of commissioners of the participating fire districts and the Evergreen Hospital board of commissioners will have to sign off on it, agree to it.
   Whether the consortium formed to draw up this business plan remains intact after the plan is completed remains to be seen. And who (or what entity) will ultimately steer the Medic One program after the business plan is finalized is also unknown. It might be fire departments in tandem or one fire department or Evergreen may opt to remain the service provider. All of this will depend upon the business plan these agencies draft and which governing bodies buy in.
   But what stakeholders do agree upon is that the same high level of emergency medical service that brought King County's Medic One system international acclaim will continue. The high standards required of its paramedics will also be upheld. The group's aim, if anything, is to improve the quality and efficiency of emergency services to residents in this area.
   "This [consortium] is a positive thing for the community," said City of Bothell Fire Chief Marcus Kragness. "It's an opportunity to become more efficient in the day-to-day mangement and operation of Emergency Medical Services. And I guess this will be most visible [if/when we place] Basic Life Support and Advanced Life Support services under one umbrella."