Deal would reduce Bellingham paramedic units

BELLINGHAM — The government partners that operate the advanced life-saving ambulance service Whatcom Medic One struck a tentative compromise that would mean fewer paramedics responding to calls.

The Bellingham Herald reported that most of the parties to the Medic One system — the city of Bellingham, the Ferndale fire district, and Whatcom County — support a proposal to reduce the number of paramedic units coming out of Bellingham from four to three in 2014 and 2015.

Officials say the cut is a cost-saving measure to keep Medic One afloat until voters are asked to approve a 0.1 percent sales-tax increase to improve the system’s revenue, probably in 2015. Medic One is losing money due to fewer billable calls and fewer Medicaid reimbursements.

Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws presented the plan to the County Council on Tuesday after his previous proposal was rebuffed by fire officials and the council earlier this month.

Fire commissioners, fire chiefs, and the unions for the Bellingham and Fire District 7 firefighters all told Louws earlier this month that Bellingham needed to maintain four paramedic units for emergency response to be adequate. Some of those officials retreated from that position on Tuesday.

The council voted 6 to 1 to ask Louws to prepare contracts with Bellingham and Fire District 7 according to his latest proposal. Council member Ken Mann cast the dissenting vote, saying he wanted to spend more of Medic One’s reserves to keep the system at its current level, until the sales tax measure goes before voters.

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