Guest opinion: Emergency room needed in Sequim

In late November, Sequim City Councilor John Miller suffered from severe discomfort in his chest. 9-1-1 was called, and Fire District 3 (Sequim) paramedics promptly responded. A diagnosis of a possible heart problem was made, and John was rushed to Olympic Medical Center (OMC) in Port Angeles by Olympic Ambulance. Shortly after arrival at OMC it was determined that he would need to go to Harrison Medical Center near Bremerton for surgery. The ambulance then retraced the journey back to Sequim and proceeded via hood Canal Bridge on to Harrison. The lengthy delay resulted in his condition steadily deteriorating, and surgeons were unable to save him.

What went wrong? Surprisingly, the answer is nothing! The patient, District 3, OMC, Olympic Ambulance and Harrison Medical all apparently acted properly in accordance with established protocols.

The problem is that everyone was focused on doing his part and no one had the holistic overview to determine what was best for the patient — or for the dozens of other Sequim area patients who may be dying unnecessarily because of delays in obtaining time-critical surgical intervention.

Although modifying protocols so unnecessary time-wasting trips from Sequim to OMC could be reduced, and better availability of scarce (and expensive) medical helicopter transport might all help, the real medium- and long-term answer is for Sequim to have its own emergency room. Fire District 2 (Port Angeles) paramedics benefit greatly by having the OMC emergency room just minutes away. Even if OMC declines the patient, very little time is lost.

Sequim residents deserve the same benefit, and can only accomplish this if District 3 paramedics can have the same quick access to an emergency room.

Sequim is no longer a backwater in the county. The Sequim area population is increasing by nearly 4 percent a year while the Port Angeles area is only increasing by about 1 percent, and the West End is scarcely growing at all.

And if Carlsborg and Blyn are included, the demographic shift to the east is even more pronounced.

On Jan. 22, Sequim City manager Charlie Bush and City of Sequim councilors Bob Lake and myself met at the District 3 Fire station to discuss these concerns. Our city manager and Fire District 3 chief informally agreed to work towards the establishment of a 24-hour facility in Sequim (perhaps a “Doc-in-a BOX” concept) until a full-fledged emergency room becomes feasible.

Since that time, both the Sequim city council and the Fire District 3 board of commissioners passed resolutions supporting the need for a Sequim emergency room.

We are going to need lots of volunteers and advocates to make this happen. But lives are at stake; we can’t afford for it not to happen.

In the meantime, District 3 is considering asking the voters for more funding for the vitally needed paramedic services. If they decide to place a measure on the ballot, I urge the voters to support the request.

Ted Miller is a member of the Sequim City Council. Contact him at 360-417-9236 or