Cities prepare to take over ambulance service

December 30, 2018

With a handful of days until Skagit County’s cities take over the bulk of the county’s ambulance service, city officials say all the pieces are in place for a smooth transition.

“The big message for anyone who dials 911 is they won’t have to do anything different,” said Eron Berg, city supervisor and attorney with Sedro-Woolley.

Berg said Sedro-Woolley is nearly done retrofitting its fire station to accommodate new paramedics and has repainted the ambulances it received from the Central Valley Ambulance Authority.

Sedro-Woolley, Mount Vernon and Burlington will become the primary providers of emergency medical services in central Skagit County, taking the place of the Central Valley Ambulance Authority.

Anacortes will continue to serve those within city limits, on south Fidalgo Island and on Guemes Island, and will expand its coverage area east.

Aero Skagit will continue to serve the east part of the county.

The transition to city control is set to happen at midnight Jan. 1 for Burlington, Mount Vernon and Anacortes, when the county’s contract with Central Valley expires.

Berg said Sedro-Woolley is switching over at 9 a.m. Dec. 31 because the city wanted the transition to happen when administrative staff is working.

At the time of the switch, Central Valley paramedics will go back to their stations and switch out with a new shift of medics, who will then be employees of their city fire departments, he said.

He and other city leaders have been prepping for this transition for months and are confident the switch will be smooth.

“There’s really no scenario I can think of where a response (from paramedics) won’t happen,” he said.

Bryan Brice, Mount Vernon Fire Department chief, said his department is getting equipment and medication ready for the switch.

“There are so many safeguards in place,” he said, adding that the emergency dispatchers and EMTs are being prepped for the change.

Similarly, Burlington Mayor Steve Sexton said the city’s fire department is close to being ready for the transition.

Recently, the city took delivery of its new ambulances, which have been repainted in the city’s colors.

“I think we’re in really good shape,” Sexton said. “I imagine there’s something we didn’t think of ... but we inherited a strong system.”

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