Lewis County Fire District 5 has accepted a contract with American Medical Response (AMR), severing their ties with Lewis County Medic One as of the first of the year.
Based in Napavine, the district had begun comparing their alternatives to Medic One earlier this year after it was discussed District 5's rates for service from Medic One would likely be changing. Since 2010, Medic One had been paying District 5 $100 per call to respond to emergencies within the district, while Medic One had been allowed to retain whatever proceeds were generated from billing the patient.
Medic One Operations Chief Grant Wiltbank had told District 5 this arrangement was leading to a significant financial loss for Medic One, in light of recent reductions both in call volume as well as collection rates, and the Medic One Board voted Oct. 21 to terminate their current contract with District 5 as of the end of the year in favor of seeking a new arrangement.
However, District 5 commissioners have said they see this withdrawal from the contract as having no legitimate cause and, in light of Medic One's actions, agreed unanimously during their Nov. 13 commissioner's meeting to seek a contract with AMR.
A draft of said contract was approved unanimously by District 5 commissioners during their regular meeting Thursday night and allows for an AMR employee to be stationed at District 5 headquarters 24-7 for a yearly retainer of $283,500 during the next five years. The contract also allows AMR to increase this retainer, but no more than 10 percent over what it costs them to provide services.
During talks last month aimed at persuading District 5 to remain with Medic One, it was argued this rate for ARM could be tens-of-thousands-of-dollars greater than what District 5 would be expected to pay Medic One at a proposed rate of $630 per call, but District 5 Commissioner Kevin Van Egdom said he feels the lower costs would not make up for dealing with an agency his district feels does not take contractual obligations seriously, adding the costs of the retainer may be defrayed if their paramedic responds to calls in other areas serviced by AMR, thus generating income.
Without District 5, it is expected the remaining districts serviced by Medic One, located in Ryderwood, Vader, Toledo, Winlock, Salkum, Mossyrock and Onalaska, will have to make up for a projected shortfall in next year's budget of close to $300,000 if they wish to retain current service levels. A proposed strategy to tackle this deficit, as well as reactions to District 5's decision to contract with AMR, are expected to be discussed during the next regular meeting of the Medic One Board this Tuesday night.