Fire districts serving the Winlock and Napavine areas have each independently expressed their intent to break away from Lewis County Medic One, leaving the agency that provides paramedic services to several areas in south and central Lewis County at a crossroads.
Fire District 15 in Winlock delivered a letter at Tuesday evening’s Medic One interlocal board meeting notifying them of intent to withdraw from the multijurisdictional agency, citing the financial position Medic One was in after voting in November to pass a budget with a $300,000 deficit that reduced the number of paramedics on duty from eight to seven.
The move comes after Lewis County Fire District 5, serving Napavine and the Newaukum Valley, recently voted yes on a five-year, $283,500 per year contract with American Medical Response that would provide the district with one paramedic on site on a rotating basis 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Lewis County Medic One Chief of Operations Grant Wiltbank said the service will have to determine how it will fund its services to five districts that would remain part of the organization. Napavine’s contract with AMR goes into effect Jan. 1, while Winlock stated it would exercise its right to opt out of the interlocal at or about February.
“(The districts) will have to have conversations to see if they can maintain a basic 24-hour service in the south end that isn’t AMR-run,” Wiltbank said.
He added that Winlock’s decision stated they had no issues with the services provided by Medic One, but was rather a financial decision in nature — the same intent that was expressed by Napavine officials.
“I don’t bemoan the districts doing what they needed to do, but I think it is unfortunate,” Wiltbank added.
No Winlock fire officials commented to The Chronicle for this story by press time Friday evening.
Medic One has operated in south Lewis County since the mid-1990s. As of December, the member districts include Toledo, Winlock and Vader/Ryderwood. Agencies contracting with Medic One for services in central Lewis County, informally dubbed the “northern group,” include Salkum, Onalaska and Mossyrock.
Fire District 5 Chief Gregg Peterson said his district hopes to benefit from AMR by having their paramedics train EMTs employed by the district, and added that having a 24/7 paramedic available to ride with firefighters to calls is paramount.
He echoed Winlock’s letter of intent in that the decision to switch to AMR was purely fiscal in motivation.
“We were totally happy with the delivery of the product for the medics, and there was no problem with the individuals at all,” Peterson said. “It was a financial decision.”
Wiltbank said Medic One had received notices from the Winlock and Vader/Ryderwood fire districts earlier this year of intent to withdraw from Medic One, but they rescinded those notices after further discussion about financial issues.
As for what will happen with Medic One in the future, that’s up for commissioners of each agency — and the union representing the paramedics — to discuss. Multiple possibilities are on the table, such as Fire District 2 forming an “umbrella organization” of sorts for the other districts, Wiltbank said.
“The takeaway for Medic One is the thousands of people they’ve served and the hundreds they’ve saved,” Wiltbank said. “We’ve had weeks where we’ve had three or four saves had it not been for Lewis County Medic One.”