(Skagit Valley Herald (Mount Vernon, WA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 22--MOUNT VERNON -- Skagit County has appointed a director to head the soon-to-be formed Emergency Medical Services Department.
Lynden resident Mark Raaka will start as EMS director April 14. Raaka most recently served as medic operations manager for Kittitas Valley Healthcare, leading day-to-day operations of the ambulance service, according to a county news release.
Raaka began working as a reserve firefighter and paramedic for the city of Ellensburg Fire Department in 2000. He then worked as a paramedic in Yakima before being named interim paramedic program director at Central Washington University in 2007.
He implemented a program reorganization at the university, the news release said.
"I'm looking forward to the new position and the opportunity that we have in Skagit County," Raaka said. "In my 15 years in EMS, I've heard lots of good things about Skagit County."
Raaka has a bachelor of science degree in paramedic studies from Central Washington University and a master of science in health services-emergency services management from George Washington University. He is working on a master of business administration degree from Washington State University.
He was chosen from 23 candidates to lead the department, which will be formed as part of the county's EMS management reform, after a 2013 report showed the system had many administrative weaknesses.
Raaka said he has gone to some EMS meetings and reviewed video recordings of others. He also has pored over last year's ESCI report that evaluated the county's EMS program and identified opportunities for improvement.
Raaka said that before the county can begin to tackle some of the larger issues, more good data needs to be collected. He said this will be one of his first priorities.
County Commissioner Ron Wesen, who was part of the hiring panel, said he was impressed with Raaka's experience evaluating systems and making procedures for better patient outcomes in the field.
Raaka has taken the initiative for continued schooling and has experience understanding the cost of EMS and the importance of patient care, Wesen said.
Th e S k a g i t C o u n t y EMS Commission will be disbanded once the EMS Department is functioning, but its technical committees will move under the department's direction.
Last week, EMS Commission membership was extended through the end of June. Commissioner Ken Dahlstedt said the commission will continue to meet month to month to keep things moving while the director and department are put in place.
He said a draft financial report on the system is expected in the next two or three weeks.
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