WhidbeyHealth EMS responds to OVER 8000 9-1-1 calls with Basic and Advanced Life Support across all of Whidbey Island.
Our six Advanced Life Support ambulances are stationed throughout the island; including 3 in Oak Harbor, 1 in Coupeville, and 2 in South Whidbey. we respond to over 8,000 calls each year ensuring the rapid response times needed when every second counts.
Through our strong partnerships with local fire departments we’re able to count on 3 Basic Life Support ambulances and a team of first responder to shorten our response times even more.
Should your healthcare needs require specialty care off-island, WhidbeyHealth EMS also provides medical transportation from WhidbeyHealth Medical Center to specialty care hospitals in Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, and King Counties.
After 9-1-1 is called and a medical emergency reported, ICOM 9-1-1 Dispatch Center will then alert the nearest ambulance. That ambulance will respond as will the local fire department to assist. Upon arrival the EMS providers act as medical detectives while simultaneously finding and treating any life threats.
Their goal is to gather as much information as possible from the patient, family, friends, and/or bystanders to aid in providing the correct treatments as well passing along accurate and thorough information to physicians and nurses at the hospital so they can more quickly and efficiently treat you.
To assist EMS, have porch and inside lights on, make sure your house numbers are visible from the street, be prepared to answer questions about the event, medical history, medications, and allergies when possible. It is also helpful to have all of the patient’s medications gathered into a bag/box to accompany the patient to the hospital. Other than finding and treating life threats, providers will obtain vital signs, EKG’s, and begin other treatments, such as's and oxygen as needed. EMS providers will determine the safest way to move the patient to the ambulance and transport the patient to the most appropriate facility per local and state guidelines and circumstances.
During the current pandemic this process has been modified. You may see only 1 EMS provider (a scout) enter the scene initially. From at least 6 feet away they will determine if there is any possibility of the presence of COVID-19 symptoms from the patient or their cohabitants.
All EMS providers will have a minimum of gloves, N95 respirator, and eye protection on, but if COVID-19 exposure is suspected they will all also don gowns and possibly PAPR’s. When transferring care to the hospital staff, they will transfer in a triage tent outside of the Emergency Department. This prevents multiple people from entering the hospital with potentially contaminated PPE.
When calling 9-1-1 the professional call-taker/dispatcher will ask the reporting party a series of specific questions. Please be prepared to provide the address and a call-back phone number in case you are disconnected. They will then ask questions about the patient and their symptoms and provide instructions.
Additionally, they will ask questions about COVID-19 symptoms and exposure of everyone in the household. This will help us to know if we need to arrive in full PPE. Rest assured that they are concurrently dispatching appropriate medical units while obtaining this information. Always advise the dispatcher if the scene is not safe for responders to enter.
If you are at home and are able, please ensure your porch and inside lights are on. Your house numbers should be visible from the street. Ensure your apartment numbers are visible. Put any household pets in a separate room. Clear a pathway from the patient to the exterior door roughly 3 feet wide. If you are a family member, friend, or a witness, please be available for questions. If possible, collect all of the patients medications in a box or bag to be taken with the patient to the hospital.
If you are at a public facility, have someone meet the ambulance out front that can direct the EMS providers to the location of the patient.
If you are at the scene of a car accident, ensure you are in a safe place and out of the flow of traffic if possible. Place your vehicle in park, turn on your hazard lights, and stay in your vehicle if it is safe to do so.
WhidbeyHealth EMS enjoys a multiple partnerships in our effort to provide our community with the most efficient delivery of medical care. Thus, you will see our units respond with the fire department, law enforcement, parks, Life Flight, and other agencies. Depending on the location and type of incident, you may see a fire engine, law enforcement, and more than one ambulance arrive. Who arrives first will vary by location.
Many of the firefighters are EMT’s and will begin patient care before the ambulance arrives. Additionally, some of the fire departments operate Basic Life Support (BLS) ambulances in partnership with WhidbeyHealth EMS. So, you may see 2 ambulances on a scene as the BLS ambulance may arrive first and begin care as the Advanced Life Support ambulance responds. For minor injuries or illnesses, it may be appropriate for the ALS ambulance to call in the BLS ambulance for transport so the ALS ambulance can stay available for life-threatening emergencies.
On arrival at the Emergency Department the EMS provider will give a verbal report to the physicians and nurses including a thorough summary of the information gathered, vital signs, EKG’s, treatments rendered and other findings. This will be a longer report than what was given by the EMS provider to the ED nurse on the phone during transport. Simultaneously, the EMS providers and ED staff will transfer the patient to an ED bed or wheelchair. During this pandemic this may occur in the triage tent outside the ED to prevent extensive contamination of the ED.
Once patient care is transferred to the Emergency Department the EMS crew may stay briefly to assist getting the patient settled and to ensure the ED staff has all the information needed.
The EMS crew will then doff PPE and don clean PPE to begin sanitizing all of the equipment, gurney, and complete interior of the ambulance. This process will take 30-60 minutes. This includes sanitizing the EMS provider’s boots. If the patient transported was COVID-19 positive or suspected, then both EMS providers will shower at the hospital and put on a clean uniform before returning to service. Then the EMS provider who cared for the patient during transport will complete their electronic Patient Care Report to include a thorough summary of all the information gathered, treatments, vital signs, EKG’s and other information to be included in the patient’s medical record and EMS database. This can take another 20-60 minutes.
Our WhidbeyHealth EMS Manager, Roger Meyers, recognizes the overarching importance of very strong and long-standing partnerships by reminding us constantly, “It’s all about relationships.”
To that end we consider everyone a partner in our community’s emergency medical service’s system. Only by communicating through and partnering with our community can we ever expect to provide the exceptional service they value, need, and want.
To learn more about our valued partnerships visit The Power of Partnerships.
Our EMS team includes a range of highly trained and certified EMTs, Paramedics and support staff under the direction of our Medical program director Dr. Paul Zaveruha.
Our goal is to deliver the best medical care possible to every patient.
Our EMT’s have obtained Washington State and National Registry certification after undergoing training and education through a Washington State approved program. They are required to obtain 30 hours of continuing education per 3-year certification period plus additional skills training.
However, our EMT’s are provided with more than 20 hours per year in-house, on-line education, plus additional skills labs. They are also provided with education hours to participate in outside education/training programs. Their American Heart Association Basic Life Support certification is renewed every 2 years. Many of our EMT’s maintain additional certifications and have a variety of backgrounds including military, fire service, law enforcement, farming, construction, and clerical.
Our paramedics are Washington State and NationalRegistry certified. They have been educated at various colleges and universities throughout the country in programs that range from 1 to 4 years. They are required to receive a minimum of 50 hours of continuing education per year and maintain several skills.
In addition to the 20 hours per year of in-house education, they are provided with on-line education and education hours to participate in outside education programs. They also maintain a minimum of American Heart Association Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Basic Life Support, and Pediatric Advanced Life Support certifications which are renewed every 2 years.
Many or our paramedics maintain additional certifications and possess a range of college degrees. They have diverse backgrounds including fire; rescue service, law enforcement, military, construction, commercial fishing, athletics, nursing, flight medic, entrepreneurial, and clerical.
Since 1985, the WhidbeyHealth Medical Program Director has been surgeon Dr. Paul Zaveruha (pictured) who was a major force behind developing emergency pre-hospital care and ambulance service on the island.
“Doc Z” works closely with paramedics and EMTs and participates in ongoing training, protocol development and monthly ambulance run reviews.
The MPD is available around the clock for real-time medical consultation with paramedics and EMTs in the field to assure continuity and coordination of care with emergency department physicians and nurses.
The MPD also coordinates patient care with regional specialists at major trauma centers and authorizes Airlift Northwest helicopter evacuation from WhidbeyHealth Medical Center or directly from the field if necessary.
Paramedics provide Advanced Life Support (ALS). This includes the ability to provide over 50 medications intravenously, intramuscularly, orally, etc. They are also trained in EKG interpretation, cardiac defibrillation, cardioversion, and pacing. They have advanced airway skills rivaled only by anesthesiologists and other physicians. They are educated and trained to function autonomously, but follow protocols developed by the Medical Program Director and approved by Washington State Department of Health. They also have the ability to consult with the Medical Program Director or his delegates 24/7 365.
EMT’s provide Basic Life Support (BLS). They are highly trained in CPR,/AED, advanced first aid, airway management, and can provide some medications. Our EMT’s are also additionally trained and highly experienced in supporting the ALS providers. While they are frequently paired with a paramedic, they can also function autonomously with another EMT in providing BLS care and transport according to approved protocols. They can also contact the Medical Program Director or his delegates 24/7 365 for consultation.
Each of our primary ambulances are equipped to provide Basic and Advanced Life Support with state-of-the art equipment. The ambulances are Ford E450’s. The rigs carry various radio equipment, GPS, and Computer Aided Dispatch. A LifePak 15 EKG/defibrillator, electric gurney, stair chair, and various safe people moving apparatus are on each rig.
Hundreds of first aid, splinting, medication, medication delivery, oxygen, oxygen delivery, airway management, hemorrhage control, and personal protective equipment items are stocked on each ambulance. We pride ourselves on staying ahead of industry standards by having some of the best equipment to help us take the best care of our patients in their time of need.
Our Community Resource Trailer houses various equipment including our Kubota ATV, Response Board, and others. The trailer allows for storage and quick deployment of these items at rescues, stand by’s, and community events.
Kubota RTV 900 was donated to WhidbeyHealth EMS by Larry and Ilet Fransson, former owners of Sound Tractor. This vehicle has provided for quick and easy access to difficult areas such as trails, beaches, and crowd. We deploy this vehicle on rescues and large community events to provide quicker access to our patients. It can carry one patient and two EMS providers. We outfit it with a radio, backboard, litter, defibrillator, and various ALS and BLS equipment. two EMS providers. We outfit it with a radio, backboard, litter, defibrillator, and various ALS and BLS equipment.
Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR)– WhidbeyHealth Foundation recently obtained several reusable PAPR’s through a grant written by our own Lead Paramedic and Disaster Preparedness Coordinator, Chris Tumblin!! We now have 2 on every ambulance. These are personal protective equipment that cover the entire face and head of the providers and continuously pumps clean filtered air into the hood. This provides greater protection from droplet and airborne infectious diseases such as COVID-19. After each use they are thoroughly sanitized for reuse. This has given us the ability to better conserve our PPE and provides better protection to our providers when dealing with infectious diseases.
We currently do not have any volunteer positions at WhidbeyHealth EMS but are very interested in utilizing any resources that like-minded organizations or individuals could provide us. Retired educators could be easily woven into our public education programs, exercise program coordinators, Physical Therapists, or Occupational Therapists could easily be utilized in our Senior Falls Prevention Program.
We currently enjoy the relationships we have with our WhidbeyHealth Foundation and also South Whidbey Hearts and Hammers. The Foundation granted Whidbey Island residents thousands of dollars worth of hand-rails allowing for the safe movement into our out of bathtubs and showers for our Seniors and Elderly.