UW Medicine presence will not affect island EMS services

UW Medicine taking over the Orcas Medical Center will not affect Orcas Island Fire and Rescue’s emergency services.

“It’s not going to impact us. Matter of fact, I think, at least the discussions I’ve had with UW, the rep has been very positive with developing a really good relationship with EMS and the clinic,” said OIFR Fire Chief Scott Williams. “We try to triage the situation. We have contacted the physicians after hours and try to get advice … If a physician isn’t going to be at a clinic then we don’t take them to a clinic.”

UW Medicine (of the University of Washington) began work this past spring with Island Hospital to transition management of the clinic. The changeover should be complete by Oct. 1.

On Tuesday, Aug. 2, The Islands’ Weekly published a guest column written by Lopez Island Fire and Emergency Medical Services Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Becky Smith and Fire Chief Jim Ghiglione that indicated a change in ownership of the Lopez Clinic would result in a major impact on emergency services.

“As you read the how, why and ‘isn’t it wonderful’ news of UW Medical Clinics taking over Lopez Clinic, ask yourself what’s missing in the story? Emergency services and how that fits into the picture is never mentioned,” they wrote. “This isn’t a mistake or an oversight – EMS and emergency care was never part of the plan with the transfer of Lopez Clinic to UW Medicine.”

On Lopez, emergency responders often take patients to the clinic for care before making a decision about off-island transport. On Orcas, that is less common.

Representatives from the Catherine Washburn Medical Association, which continues to negotiate its Lopez contract with UW Medicine, said emergency care will still be provided by Lopez Fire and supported by the clinic.

“We will have clinic space for EMS to see and triage patients as appropriate,” said Tina Mankowski, UW Medicine Senior Director and Assistant Vice President of Medical Affairs. “If the care needed can be provided by a primary care physician or nurse practitioner, we will provide that primary or urgent care.”