After several months of deliberation, public meetings, and public hearings, the Board of Klickitat County Commissioners voted during its regular meeting last week to form an Emergency Medical Services District that will provide ambulance services for the majority of Klickitat County.
The district will cover all areas of the county, with the exception of those that fall within the boundaries of Fire Protection District No. 2 (Bickleton) and FPD No. 10 (Alderdale). Commissioners from both fire districts indicated at previous meetings that they did not want their districts included as they primarily rely on out-of-county hospitals for their ambulance services.
Both Skyline Hospital in White Salmon and Klickitat Valley Health in Goldendale have been advocating well over a year for the creation of the district, which they say will help preserve the level of emergency services to which residents of both hospital districts are currently accustomed. Hospital administrators say rising costs and falling returns have made operating the ambulance service, from their ends, untenable.
“There is a real risk that Skyline Hospital won’t be able to provide ambulance service at the same level going forward if things stay the same,” Kimmes explained to a crowd of 30 people during an April 3 public hearing in White Salmon held to discuss the creation of the EMS District. He also added that Skyline may be eventually forced to “reduce from two [ambulances] to one [ambulance]” if nothing changed.
Cost savings would derive in part from the consolidation of the services, which is supposed to bring better buying power and reductions in expenditures on such things as fuel and administration.
However, County Commissioner David Sauter said during the April 3 public hearing that the EMS District would essentially be dead in the water without a levy to support it. Currently, Skyline Hospital is supported by a six-year EMS levy set to expire at the end of the year, but KVH does not have an EMS levy to help fund its ambulance service. Although no formal levy proposal has been drafted, it’s expected that if a levy for the new EMS District were to pass (which would serve as a replacement levy for the west end of the county), the levy rate would likely be less than what Skyline Hospital district taxpayers pay now.
Although the district wouldn’t technically go into full effect until the beginning of 2014 (again, dependent on the levy outcome), Kimmes said the county commissioners will start serving, temporarily, as the board for the EMS District. The ordinance to create the district was on the county commissioners’ agenda for their Tuesday meeting and Kimmes also noted the commissioners will be holding a special meeting (and the first meeting) of the EMS District on Tuesday, May 7, to draft a levy proposal to submit to the Klickitat County Auditor’s Office. The deadline for districts to file resolutions for the August Primary Election is Friday, May 10.