A Critique of Public Hospital District #1’s Reorganization of EMS

Posted September 1, 2020 at 8:53 pm by

We hear from Fran­cis Smith, Retired Sr. EMT & Fire Cap­tain (25 years)…

The San Juan Island Pub­lic Hos­pi­tal Dis­trict #1 (PHD) recent­ly announced a sur­prise reor­ga­ni­za­tion of San Juan Island EMS. Chief Karl Kuet­z­ing has been removed and the PHD Super­in­ten­dent is now in charge of the agency.

The pub­lished announce­ment is a study in duplic­i­ty and pro­found igno­rance of the nature of the day-to-day work of San Juan Island EMS. The word­ing of the press release indi­cates the PHD’s plan is to “fig­ure this out” after the major reor­ga­ni­za­tion with­out con­sid­er­a­tion of sig­nif­i­cant unan­tic­i­pat­ed consequences.

It is the cur­rent PHD, under Anna Lisa Lindstrum’s lead­er­ship, that has dis­card­ed all of the work done by the pre­vi­ous PHD Board and the Cit­i­zen Advi­so­ry Group and has walked away from the Fire/EMS inte­gra­tion effort. The child­ish out­rage inci­dent dur­ing a recent meet­ing served as a flim­sy excuse to cease all pre­tense of work on inte­gra­tion effort.

The removal of Chief Karl Kuet­z­ing from his lead­er­ship posi­tion in the mid­dle of the COVID cri­sis is stag­ger­ing in the thought­less­ness, igno­rance and self-serv­ing moti­va­tion of the PHD. It is well known that the PHD was unhap­py that Chief Kuet­z­ing and Chief Norvin Collins worked coop­er­a­tive­ly to adopt a joint response mod­el with both an ambu­lance crew and a fire crew (with at least one EMT on board the engine) respond­ing to all per­ti­nent med­ical emer­gency calls.

The replace­ment of Chief Kuet­z­ing with Pamela Hutchins, who has no expe­ri­ence what­so­ev­er in the man­age­ment of a first respon­der orga­ni­za­tion, looks, sounds and smells like ret­ri­bu­tion for work­ing inde­pen­dent­ly with the Fire Dis­trict to pro­vide a work­ing COVID response mod­el that puts com­mu­ni­ty safe­ty first.

The work of being a first respon­der is haz­ardous, stress­ful and unlike any oth­er pub­lic ser­vice work. The sui­cide rate for first respon­ders is sig­nif­i­cant­ly high­er than for the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion. Our first respon­ders need a sta­ble, sup­port­ive orga­ni­za­tion and a leader who can work on the front lines and in the man­age­ment chair at any giv­en moment. This need has clear­ly escaped the PHD’s notice as has the safe­ty of the pub­lic dur­ing the COVID emergency.

Fran­cis G. Smith
Retired Sr. EMT & Fire Cap­tain (25 years) 

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One comment...

  1. Although it is known to many of us who have lived here 30 years or more that the Smiths have served hon­or­ably in both our EMS and Fire Dis­tricts, I find it inter­est­ing that Fran­cis failed to dis­close that his wife, Rebec­ca, is a retired EMT (11 years), was active in the EMT Asso­ci­a­tion for sev­er­al years as the Trea­sur­er, and served as a fire fight­er for 17 years and a Fire Com­mis­sion­er for 6 years.

    More impor­tant­ly, how­ev­er, he failed to dis­close that in 2018 his wife was appoint­ed to the San Juan Coun­ty Pub­lic Health Dis­trict #1 Com­mis­sion­er 5 posi­tion. As report­ed by Hay­ley Day of the Jour­nal of the San Juans on Feb. 16, 2018 (online), Rebec­ca was appoint­ed by a 2–1 vote with Com­mis­sion­er Lind­strum dissenting.

    Comment by David Bentley on September 2, 2020 at 10:56 am

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