Chodkowski: Summit County ballot item is crucial for quality healthcare | SummitDaily.com

Chodkowski: Summit County ballot item is crucial for quality healthcare

I'm writing to explain my strong support of Summit County Referred Measure 1A, which would provide critical support for our community's emergency services.

As someone who has spent more than 25 years in health care, nearly a decade of that in Summit County, I'm intimately familiar with the challenges our community faces in ensuring that people receive the care they need and deserve when they're at their most vulnerable. External financial pressures, a new regulatory landscape and wide seasonal swings in demand put our care-delivery systems to the test as we strive to provide high-quality, cost-effective emergency services to our residents and visitors.

These pressures have weighed particularly heavily on Summit County Ambulance Service and our 911 dispatch system, which deliver exemplary emergency response throughout Summit County. We expect the skilled professionals at the ambulance service and other first-responder agencies to swiftly come to our aid in the most critical of circumstances, and that's exactly what they do. Yet for every 10 calls Summit County Ambulance responds to, only six ever pay the bill.

Summit County has been hard at work in recent years to improve its finances. County officials, the local fire districts and other stakeholders are pursuing creative collaborations to make more efficient use of existing resources. But the gap is growing larger every year as costs continue to rise, and collection rates continue to fall, despite efforts at belt-tightening. The ambulance service's annual deficits are projected to grow to more than $1 million in the next few years.

Summit County's 911 call center relies on fees on local telephone lines to fund its operations and equipment costs. As mobile phone technologies have blossomed, the number of local lines has dropped significantly. And now the 911 center lacks the means to modernize outdated communications technologies that keep us and our first responders safe.

Measure 1A would help to fill the gaps, ensuring that Summit County Ambulance Service and the Summit County 911 center can continue to fulfill their vital missions in our community. And should the measure receive our collective support, ambulance fee discounts would be provided to locals, in recognition of our contribution to the system.

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The time has come for us as a community to come together in support of these essential public services. I urge you to vote yes on 1A.

Paul Chodkowski

Breckenridge

President/CEO at St. Anthony Summit Medical Center