Skip Brandt’s vituperative personal attack last week [March 18 issue] confirms how desperately he wants to distract from the real issue, my suggestion for a “time out” so people could understand S 1332. I can document my efforts to learn about the bill before writing the letter, including a personal conversation (but couldn’t get a straight answer) with Mr. Brandt, e-mails with Senator Crabtree, and an on-line public information request to determine any relevant communications on S 1332 among the Idaho EMS Bureau, EMSAC, and/or Idaho Legislature. No response. Rather than a point-by-point rebuttal of Skip’s outrageous diatribe, I’ll justifiably and generously characterize it as proof of Mark Twain’s bromide, “Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reasons.”
Although the bill is now on the governor’s desk, public policy decisions like this should include information, discussion, and support from those who will be impacted. Too bad nobody knew about it. When the CEO’s of Syringa and St. Mary’s hospitals came to the Feb. 25 ICC meeting, Skip did all the talking and dismissed their questions with “let’s just wait and see if it passes.” I think it’s unconscionable to not engage, explain, and sell the benefits of altering the future, in this case the viability of Idaho County ambulance and QRU transfer services.
A segment of the legislation allows new ambulance districts to extend beyond county lines, which could resolve the Kamiah / Kooskia ambulance jurisdictional issue. It appears that’s the bait, and the hook is in the rest of the bill, which cleverly extends the warrant to the entire county in a radical, unproven manner. The following are my primary concerns:
Type “Idaho County EMS” in your web browser and note that it directly links to the State EMS website. We don’t have a county EMS, but other counties do. Several years ago, I had the opportunity to serve on the statewide EMS Advisory Committee (EMSAC), and learned how well other county commissions in Idaho support their respective EMS services. Thankfully, Idaho County does have dedicated, incredible EMTs, ambulance drivers, volunteers and rural community members who have heroically covered for ICC neglect. Increased demand for rural EMS services will occur (26 percent of our population is over 65) and the responsibility is offloaded to local residents. This requires explanation.
Type “31-3901 Idaho Code” into your web browser and note the last sentence states “Providing ambulance services is a governmental function.” The ICC has ignored this for years and the chair now reveals that it was completely his idea to change the law. I was initially confused, after receipt of a Feb. 21 e-mail from Sen. Crabtree’s office, “...they (emphasis added) are trying to transfer the responsibility to local folks.” Can the chair unilaterally proceed to change a long-standing, important Idaho Code that impacts rural residents without a motion, discussion and vote? This requires an explanation.
The New Section 31-3914 of the (almost) law stipulates CORPORATE POWERS AND DUTIES OF BOARD OF AMBULANCE SERVICE COMMISSIONERS. Although the eight requirements mimic those of the Board of Fire Protection Commissioners, my knowledge of the Syringa Ambulance operation, plus volunteer experience as a commissioner of the Grangeville Rural Fire District, informs me that being a volunteer ambulance taxing district commissioner would be challenging, time-consuming and a stretch for many rural folks. In some areas, it would just not be feasible, rendering the premise of S 1332 fatally flawed - perhaps literally. The potential benefits, downstream consequences, and probabilities of success of S 1332 should have been discussed with EMT’s, volunteers, and rural residents who will be impacted. Evidence will continue to emerge as this has major implications for the future health and safety of Idaho County residents. It requires an explanation.
Note: I have copied Mr. Brandt, and look forward to his civil, logical, and well-reasoned explanations befitting his job as a public servant.