Nine months after the North Naples Fire Control and Rescue District won its controversial fight to expand emergency medical services, it is now gearing up what could be another fight over ambulance service.
During a fire board meeting Thursday, North Naples fire commissioners gave their blessing for their command staff to form a proposal on hospital transport. Currently, Collier EMS provides transport for the whole county.
Fire officials did not know when the proposal would be ready. In the meantime, the district has been working to boost its medical credentials.
Attempting to answer criticism that the fire district wasn’t serious about strong medical expertise, North Naples command staff introduced new training programs and more diversified medical leadership to the fire board.
The district is building partnerships with medical development firm Arthrex and local hospitals. They have also reached out to local doctors to help consult on best practices in the field.
“No one can say North Naples isn’t committed to the best training,” said John McGowan, a North Naples fire commissioner.
Training was one of the key arguments against the fire district’s attempt to build an advanced life support (ALS) program. Running an ALS program, which must be approved by the Collier Commission and the state, allows certified paramedics to perform invasive medical techniques on patients in the field.
Their program is up for renewal by the Collier Commission next year.
Dr. Robert Tober, the county medical director, says unprepared paramedics wielding powerful drugs and invasive medical tools can be a hazard to the public.
Tober opposed the fire district’s plan to establish its own program in January, arguing that North Naples paramedics were not meeting training requirements. County commissioners narrowly approved the fire district’s proposal 3-2.
Currently, North Naples runs its ALS paramedic program under Tober’s medical treatment plans, but with the oversight of its own medical director, Dr. Jeffery Panozzo
When North Naples fire officials informed county leaders of their intentions to take over ambulance service in their district, outgoing EMS Chief Jeff Page was skeptical of their experience.
There were two new paramedic training partnership introduced Thursday.
■ The fire district will partner with Arthrex to do clinical training at their facilities.
Deputy Fire Chief Jorge Aguilera said Arthrex has invited paramedics to practice in its lab, which he likened to medical school facilities.
So far, they’ve been given the opportunity to perform bone injections — considered an alternative to IVs — on human cadavers. Before, North Naples paramedics practiced on mannequins with fake bones or on chicken bones, Aguilera said.
■ The board approved a partnership with the Lee Memorial Trauma Center that would allow North Naples paramedics to work clinical rotations under supervision of medical staff.
The fire district currently has a similar partnership with Physician’s Regional Hospital. Aguilera said the new partnership would give paramedics greater access to critical patients.
Collier County EMS personnel don’t do clinical rotations, said Dan Bowman, deputy chief for the agency. Bowman said Collier EMS paramedics get enough experience through field training, so hospital rotations aren’t necessary.
Panozzo, North Naples fire district’s medical director, also introduced doctors that would consult as a medical team on training and patient care for the fire district.
Panozzo said the collaboration should allow for more comprehensive care.
“It shouldn’t just be the medical leadership of one person,” he said. “It should be a group providing guidance.”
The additions to the medical team are Dr. Richard Judah, director of intensive care at Physician’s Regional at Pine Ridge, and Dr. Deborah Lopez, a pediatric specialist at NCH.