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Bob Rowe’s eyes became teary and his voice cracked as he held up a picture of his friend Paul Anderson.

Rowe says Anderson passed away after he was unable to get the proper medical care and a timely transport to a hospital.

Rowe’s story and others like it are part of the narrative behind support for the city of Marco Island taking control of its emergency medicals services and increasing the number of ambulances.

“They did not have the pharmaceuticals or the tubing to intubate Paul Anderson on that ambulance,” Rowe said during Thursday’s town hall meeting. “In closing, I say God Bless you, Paul. I’m sorry I failed you.”

The town hall meeting was the first of many as the fate of emergency medical services will be in the hands of Marco Island voters on Aug. 28.

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Gov. Rick Scott signed HB1395 on March 23, paving the way for a vote to take to place to determine whether Marco Island will take local control of its ambulance services.

Up until this vote, only Collier County ambulances have had the ability to transport patients to hospitals. HB1395 allows Marco Island to apply directly with the Department of Health to provide those services. 

Marco Island City Council Chairman Jared Grifoni said the city has long talked with the county about increasing its EMS capabilities, but that was mitigated in the past through allocation of a part-time unit during season.

“It still left a significant gap in hours,” Grifoni said. “The goal had always been to increase the number of ambulances on Marco Island for our citizens to use.”

Collier County has already denied Marco Island’s request for a second ambulance and its commissioners have voiced opposition to a Certificate of Public Convenience or Necessity.

Marco Island Fire-Rescue Chief Mike Murphy said emergency medical services were moving toward consolidation, which in turn would divert local taxpayer dollars to improvements in other areas of Collier County without providing a direct benefit to Marco Island.

“We don’t want our level of care based on what’s good for the rest of the county,” Murphy said. “We want our level of care based on what’s good for our population.”
Murphy and Dr. Jerry Swiacki were also critical of Collier County because of the restrictions placed on carrying and administering certain medicines.

Should the voters be in favor of local control, Murphy said the city would staff two primary transport trucks 24 hours per day and a third unit available as a backup.

A preliminary cost estimate found an increase in ambulance services would cost $2.1 million in the first year, which includes the addition of 12 firefighter-paramedics, a medical director, pharmaceuticals and operating expenses. 

Based upon that figure, it would cost residents around $30 per $250,000 taxable value.
 “The difference will be a higher level of care for Marco residents, who deserve it and want to make that determination,” Murphy said.

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