Guest Commentary: The future of responsive quality EMS/ambulance service on Marco Island
This issue is about Marco Island’s EMS future. I have seen letters to the editor from people that do not live here or have never spoken to me about this issue.
We, the citizens on Marco Island, must focus on the important issues that directly effects our Island which include quality medical care, better utilization of your 28 existing paramedics and resources and protection from a voter approved County EMS consolidation with an Independent Fire District outside of our control.
Marco Island Fire personnel have been serving you for over 53 years with quality fire and medical care. Your fire department paramedics have staffed the Collier County ambulance on Marco for the past 15 years and have averaged 12,000 hours per year assisting you to the hospital with a Collier County ambulance and paramedic.
Our personnel are highly trained and experienced paramedics and take great pride in the care they provide. In most cases, when you dial 911, there is one Collier County and one Marco Island paramedic on the ambulance and at least two to three Marco Island EMT/Paramedics arriving on one of our fire units.
Poor utilization of our paramedics
In 2007 a Collier County consultant reported that the system was fragmented and paramedics in fire departments should be trained to the same level as county transport paramedics. This was never implemented.
Currently, you have 28 Marco Island paramedics whose clearance to administer pain, anti-seizure and heart medications you need were rescinded last July. You must wait for a Collier County ambulance that carries these drugs and only then a Marco Island paramedic can administer, if they happen to be on this ambulance.
Inefficient at best and a travesty if it is your loved one. These medications are critically important especially if you are offshore boating or the county ambulance is delayed in its response.
Marco Island will hire a Medical Director that will focus on the needs of our community primarily and not the rest of the county. This doctor will not be a political appointee and we have asked two highly respected local physicians with offices on Marco to help in the selection. He or she will be selected because of their EMS knowledge and experience.
The director will work with Marco doctors to create a community paramedic partnership specifically addressing your needs. This director will be locally accountable to guarantee the proper drugs you need are on our vehicles and all paramedics are trained to administer them. The medical director will have a contract to include required ride time on our ambulance and ensure all paramedics maintain the highest level of skills.
Collier County has provided one full-time ambulance since 1996 and a current level of 1.2 ambulances currently despite numerous requests from the City for a second full time unit. Our plan we have put together will provide two full time ambulances and one surge ambulance 365 days a year to service your needs.
You pay the County $2,000,000 in EMS taxes and approximately $1,000,000 in ambulance transport fees. Under our COPCN transport license this fee will stay on Marco. It does not cost the county $3,000,000 to run 1.2 ambulances and much of this tax pays for EMS needs in growth areas and infrastructure off Island. Your current city tax dollars pay for your personnel to staff the county ambulance, pay for the EMS equipment and the drugs carried on our fire units.
The EMS double taxation issue was decided in a court case in Broward County filed by a private citizen. The presiding judge ruled that EMS was a double taxation and the county was required to negotiate or refund taxes with cities that provided ambulance service. The residents of Marco cannot pursue this issue until the City is up and running and providing the service. There is full City Council consensus the City will not relinquish the right to pursue relief on County EMS taxes.
As your Fire/Rescue chief it is my duty to secure our EMS future from the changing environment. Your Fire/Rescue department members are skilled and experienced and will rise to the challenge to bring the very best EMS service to Marco Island in the most cost-effective manner, as they have with the fire service for over 50 years.