Community encouraged to see cooperative tone of EMS talks

Our community may still be a long ways from resolving the on-going dispute regarding countywide ambulance services, but elected officials took a huge, positive step forward last week by sitting down face to face and agreeing on a list of specific negotiating points.
City and county leaders both looked relieved as they sat down for an ANR interview Oct. 26 and again Friday, reporting initial progress as well as a shared sense of commitment to find a solution. A third meeting was scheduled Monday as of this writing, which is encouraging in and of itself that there is such a sense of urgency.
This issue has become an urgent matter, since it’s been on the local agenda causing uncertainty for more than a year now and the county’s initial date for ending its ownership/management role has already come and gone. It’s time to roll up the sleeves and sharpen the pencils, which is exactly what the negotiations committee is now doing.
There are reportedly five major items on the negotiations list and make no mistake it will be a challenge to bridge the gap on each of those items. The reality is that there has probably always been a high level of agreement on the quality of service and need for sharing resources, but there is a lot of devil in the details of those remaining points.
Chief among them is the question of needed staffing levels and ultimately, cost. It’s been stated from the outset that nobody questioned or criticized the level of advanced life support service being provided, thus the focus has been on how to provide the same top-notch emergency care at less cost.
Whether it comes from county subsidy or the city’s general fund, it’s all taxpayer dollars funding a high-priority local service. It will not be easy to address the core questions about transferring assets or preferred full- and part-time staffing levels, but coming to terms on those details is the only way to solve this matter once and for all.
As divisive as this issue has been for our community, it needs to be resolved now in a way that prevents revisiting the same debate in a year, two or five. We applaud city and county leaders for recognizing how much they have in common and for agreeing to focus on finding a sustainable solution for quality emergency care.
Kurt Johnson

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