Medic 7 votes to study breakup

By JIM HALEY

Herald Writer

EDMONDS — The 21-year-old advanced emergency medical system in south Snohomish County cities may be disbanded and reformed under fire departments in Edmonds and Lynnwood.

The governing board for a consolidated service, Medic 7, on Thursday voted 4-1 to study breaking up the organization that serves Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Brier and Woodway.

The vote came at the suggestion of Edmonds Mayor Gary Haakenson, who also is chairman of the independent board that governs the Medic 7 life-support service.

Haakenson pledged that a change in the organization would not result in a reduction of paramedic services, at least in Edmonds and Lynnwood.

His suggestion follows several failed attempts by the five cities to consolidate fire and medical services. Haakenson said consolidation is a worthy goal, but each time talks stall when determining how to bring medical services into the mix.

Also prompting Haakenson’s suggestion is the possibility that Mountlake Terrace will drop out of the organization next year in favor of signing a contract with another fire department or integrating advanced medical service into its own fire department.

That would leave a $400,000 hole in the Medic 7 budget that would have to be shouldered mainly by Edmonds and Lynnwood, Haakenson said. Snohomish County Fire District 1 dropped out of Medic 7 several years ago when it implemented its own paramedic system.

Mountlake Terrace Mayor Dave Gossett said Thursday that his city would be able to provide comparable service and still save up to $300,000 a year by cross-training firefighters and paramedics.

City fire departments now provide basic life support. They are backed by the independent Medic 7, which has only paramedics.

Under a doctor’s supervision, paramedics administer certain drugs and perform acts that can help save lives, such as in the case of heart attacks.

As a result of the vote, subcommittees will study the possible breakup. The committees would report recommendations to the board for a final decision.

The Edmonds mayor said there wouldn’t be much of a change in his city and Lynnwood.

"If Medic 7 were to break up in these two cities, the folks in the Edmonds area would see the same faces (or paramedics) with probably a different uniform on," Haakenson said.

The lone vote against studying a breakup came from Lynnwood.

Don Gough, president of the Lynnwood City Council and a Medic 7 board member, said, "We have no intention of leaving Medic 7 any time in the near future."

He described Medic 7 as a world-class lifesaving system.

"You show us a system with the same kind of patient outcomes for less money, and we’d be there in a second, Gough said.

But the paramedics, who generally favor consolidating services "reluctantly," side with Haakenson.

"I just think it’s the only solution left," said Dave Clark, president of Local 3524 of the International Association of Firefighters.

Gough said he’s concerned by the way the issue was brought up; Haakenson’s letter came "by a sealed, secret envelope."

"These are public ideas of major import and substance and impact on the community," Gough said. "This in not something that needs to be done privately."

Haakenson said there were up to 30 people at the meeting; nobody was attempting to get something done behind closed doors.

"This is not a new concept," Haakenson said. "This has been discussed for some time."

Under the group’s rules, a city can choose to drop out by giving six months notice in June. To break the Medic 7 governing system apart would take a unanimous vote.

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