New drugs and monitors will improve lifesaving capabilities for Marco Island’s fire department

Marco Island Fire Chief Mike Murphy waits to explain changes in emergency services drug rules Monday during city council. With Murphy are City Manager Jim Riviere and City Clerk Laura Litzan. Cheryl Ferrara / Eagle Correspondent

Marco Island Fire Chief Mike Murphy waits to explain changes in emergency services drug rules Monday during city council. With Murphy are City Manager Jim Riviere and City Clerk Laura Litzan. Cheryl Ferrara / Eagle Correspondent

— The stroke of a pen will improve exponentially emergency medical services provided by firefighters on Marco Island.

City Council learned Monday that Fire Chief Mike Murphy received a letter, preceding a formal agreement, permitting the island’s fire engines to carry 28 drugs used to provide emergency services. He will also be allowed to equip engines with 12-lead state-of-the-art heart monitors.

The letter was received from Collier County’s Medical Director Dr. Robert Tober. The change allows fire engines and EMS ambulances to carry the same medicines with the exception of two prohibited narcotics.

Firefighters on Marco Island are trained Emergency Medical Technicians. One day, a firefighter might be assigned to an ambulance and the next to a fire engine. On the ambulance the firefighter has 30 drugs available to treat on site.

But the same trained professional is allowed only a fraction of that number if assigned to a fire engine. Firefighters arriving on the scene ahead of an ambulance must wait for ambulance crews to administer lifesaving drugs.

Murphy is waiting for a final letter from the medical director formalizing the drug agreement. He then will equip each of three fire engines with drug boxes and the additional medicines at a cost of approximately $300 per unit per year. Murphy said money could be found in the department’s budget to cover the cost.

The 12-lead monitors are very sophisticated machines and built to be used in the field, Murphy told council. They perform a number of tests including checking for oxygen in the blood, checking blood pressure and monitoring heart irregularities.

“The machine would be used on almost every call we go on,” Murphy said.

Initially, Murphy asked council for $62,830 for three monitors but withdrew his request Monday. He explained he made arrangements to receive one loaned unit from the county and two from surpluses at the East Naples Fire Department. The city will need to pay approximately $10,000 to cover maintenance contracts on the three monitors for one year.

Council made a motion to authorize the expenditure of no more than $10,000 for the loan and maintenance agreements on the three monitors. The motion passed by a vote of 6-0. Councilor Chuck Kiester was not present at the meeting.

Vice Councilor Larry Magel asked Murphy to comment on Isles of Capri’s fire operation’s investigative committee.

The Isles of Capri Fire Advisory Board requested a 7-member committee investigate a possible administrative change for its Municipal Services Taxing Unit that pays for its fire department. Murphy said he met with the committee and answered question on how a transfer might work.

The two departments already work extremely closely, Murphy said. The change would mean the two districts would become one fire department with one chief.

“It would have to be a good fit for all of us,” Murphy said. “There are good financial and operational benefits to this.”

Council agreed to move forward and explore possibilities if Isles of Capri’s Fire Advisory Board votes to continue with its investigation. Council appointed Magel to be its liaison with Capri’s advisory board.

Magel agreed to bring updates back to council. The Capri advisory board is scheduled to review the investigative report at its February 16 or 23 meeting, Murphy said.

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