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Fire-related articles

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When you call 9-1-1 or knock on our door, Orcas Island Fire and Rescue is at your service.

As the provider of emergency medical services for Orcas Island, Orcas Island Fire and Rescue has a primary mission of helping people stay safe and alive. Over 70 percent of our calls for help are for emergency medical services. Our EMS system is very successful as demonstrated by the fact that in San Juan County, our cardiac resuscitation rates are among the highest in the nation.

San Juan County is fortunate to have the services of Dr. Michael Sullivan. Patterned after successful EMS systems nation-wide where the EMS medical director works out of a local hospital Emergency Department; EMS in San Juan County is exceptional and appropriate for our rural setting. It is that way because of the paramedics and EMTs who work under the cutting edge leadership of Dr. Sullivan. The training he delivers is comprehensive and caring. Dr. Sullivan spends at least eight hours each month teaching Orcas responders alone. Due to the remote qualities of island living, the equipment and medicine carried on our ambulances are similar to an emergency room.

It’s all about the best medical care for the patient. Under Dr. Sullivan’s oversight, we transport our patients to the optimal facility for the medical situation of each patient regardless of Dr. Sullivan’s affiliation with any hospital. Our transport data supports this. If we could, we would keep all patients on the island. When appropriate, OIFR paramedics call the patient’s local physician to assist or follow-up. One problem that we have found is that “after hours” and on weekends, it can be a challenge to coordinate follow-up care by an Orcas physician, especially for visitors orislanders who don’t see a practitioner on Orcas. We believe this is aresolvable issue with all parties working together.

Given functioning mental capacity and adhering to prudent medical practices, patients have the right to choose where to be transported within our regional area, or whether to be transported at all. Under the supervision of Dr. Sullivan, OIFR paramedics work with patients to make decisions based upon medical best practices. However, if a patient chooses not to be transported, it is honored. The patient would be very reasonably asked to sign an “against medical advice” form but their wishes would be respected.

Given the high cost of health care, the ease of accessibility, and the quality of customer service OIFR aspires to provide, Eastsound Station 21 is perceived by many in the community as a defacto urgent care clinic. This is not uncommon for a fire station in any location, but is especially apparent here because of the inconsistency of after-hours medical care.

We will achieve success by working together. At OIFR, we look forward to working with the Orcas Island community and medical professionals to initiate a viable after-hours medical care program for allpatients. In the last year, we have met with the island physicians on multiple occasions to keep lines of communication open and to work toward a solution.

On Thursday, June 13, at 4:00 p.m. Orcas Island Fire and Rescue invites the community to a “Town Hall” meeting to explain our emergency medical program and discuss possible solutions for after-hours medical care. Your thoughts and input would be greatly appreciated.

Take care and stay safe,

Kevin K. O'Brien Fire Chief/CEO

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