Fire officials need role in any EMS changes

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Dear editor and community members:

Re: Future Bonner County EMS System Changes

We received an invitation by the Board of County Commissioners inviting us (fire service with law enforcement and medical officials) to a meeting on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019, in the first-floor conference room regarding the future of EMS in Bonner County. The BOCC will not be making a presentation at the meeting, the purpose of the event is to receive constructive input regarding the future of BCEMS.

Our local newspapers have posted articles about proposed changes for BCEMS by the BOCC. To date, the fire districts have not received an explanation for the changes, a copy of any proposed changes or a description of how the proposed changes would work. Apparently the BOCC plan to shift the burden of BCEMS to a private Boundary County non-profit ambulance company.

The Bonner County Fire Chiefs Association believes the design process for the future EMS delivery system should include the expertise and concerns of all who are served by the EMS system and by those who deliver EMS services. We, the fire chiefs, believe our fire districts’ emergency services, firefighters and equipment are a vital part of the present EMS delivery system and provide an important and dependable service.

We understand the BOCC have operational, liability, and financial concerns with their current system. Some of these problems are the result of ineffective operations, capital project decisions and duplicate infrastructure.

The fire districts of the county have a long history of delivering dependable emergency services and managing taxpayer funds with proper and transparent public board oversight. Our communities trust us to deliver emergency services.

Given the limited amount of public information by the BOCC, it is difficult to provide specific input for a proposed system that will impact all Bonner County residents and their fire districts. With appreciation for the magnitude of these decisions, we believe there should be a more thorough evaluation of the EMS service delivery options through a collaborative effort of interested and impacted community members and professionals.

We insist the BOCC future EMS system planning process be restarted so that the fire districts can be involved and provide their insight. Restructuring the delivery of EMS is important for everyone in our county. We believe the end result of our combined efforts will be worth the time spent on this project.

The members of the Bonner County Fire Chiefs Association will attend the meeting and participate.

MARK SAUTER

Selkirk Fire,

Rescue & EMS

Sandpoint

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