Florida City Council Rejects County’s EMS Cuts

St. Petersburg leaders face off with county leaders over reduced funding


 
 

CHRISTOPHER O'DONNELL, The Tampa Tribune | | Friday, March 21, 2014


ST. PETERSBURG - City leaders could be on course for another legal battle with the county over proposed cuts to emergency medical services, with some city leaders floating the drastic option of leaving the countywide 911 medical responder system.

City council members said Thursday they will not accept the county's proposed cuts to EMS funding, which would see St. Petersburg lose $1 million per year - about 8 percent of the county's $13 million share of EMS funding.

The council instructed Mayor Rick Kriseman to continue negotiations with Pinellas County Administrator Robert LaSala. Kriseman's position is that the city is already underfunded and cuts should only be made once the city receives its full share of EMS funding.

But if those talks fail, council members said they are prepared to go to court. They said the city is in a strong legal position, based on the special state act that established the countywide EMS system and the city's success in a 1989 lawsuit in which the judge ruled the county must pay for the current level of service to be maintained.

I'm willing to authorize litigation and get what we derive based on the special act and the current status of the law, said council member Jim Kennedy, who serves on the city's EMS committee.

Council Chairman Bill Dudley said he would be prepared to go further, with the city providing its own EMS service and leaving the county system.

This keeps raising its ugly head; I'm tired of us being bullied, said Dudley. In the long run, we'd be happy not to have to deal with this stuff anymore.

Opting out would be complicated, requiring the support of the area's state lawmakers to amend or revoke the special act. The city would also likely have to levy its own EMS property tax to replace county funding.

The current spat is the latest in a decades-long battle over EMS costs. City officials argue that residents' lives would be put at risk if response times are lengthened. Without cuts, county officials warn that EMS will run at a deficit, forcing the county to use up reserves and raise taxes.

Overall, Pinellas County officials are planning to cut $2.3 million from the $40.4 million it pays each year to 18 fire districts to act as medical first responders. The plan, which came out of a study by Fitch and Associates, was recently backed by the Board of County Commissioners.

It recommends fewer paramedics on duty overnight, when the volume of 911 calls drops, although it would be up to cities and fire districts to decide overnight staffing levels.

EMS funding for Clearwater, Largo, Lealman and Pinellas Park would also be cut under the plan, but Palm Harbor, Seminole and Tarpon Springs would get modest increases. Also, annual funding increases would be suspended for three years. Beginning in 2018, funding increases would be based on a cost-of-living index.

County officials say the cuts would only result only in a seven-second increase in the county's 4½ minute average response time. The county's standard is to respond to 90 percent of calls within 7½ minutes.

But St. Petersburg Fire Rescue Chief Ian Womack warned that would mean hundreds of calls in which residents in need of medical help would have to wait longer.

He also warned that the county plan would affect the department's ability to respond to fires at a time when studies show fires are more likely to be fatal.

During nighttime hours when fire response is most critical, they want to task that vehicle to do medical calls, he said.

codonnell@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-7654

Twitter: @codonnellTBO

Mobile Category: 
News


Copyright © 2013 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy


Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: News, St. Petersburg, politics, Pinellas County

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS





 

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

Innovation & Progress

Follow in the footsteps of these inspirational leaders of EMS.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Las Vegas Fire, AMR Reach New Deal

Tentative agreement reached over ambulance calls.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Fire Damages Several Homes in California Earthquake

Four homes destroyed and others damaged after quake rattles Napa.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Image Trend: ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

ImageTrend just challenged NEMSIS TAC and a couple others.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Where in the World of EMS is A.J.?

A.J. Heightman participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in a big way!
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Where in the World of EMS is A.J.? Scranton

JEMS Editor-in-Chief visits his hometown of Scranton, Pa.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Over 100 Injured in California Earthquake

172 patients treated at Napa hospital after 6.0-magnitude earthquake.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Numerous Rescues during Arizona Flooding

Severe flooding across the region prompted several rescues.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Field Bridge Xpress ePCR on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire

Sneak peek of customizable run forms & more.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

VividTrac offered by Vivid Medical - EMS Today 2013

VividTrac, affordable high performance video intubation device.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

LMA MAD Nasal™

Needle-free intranasal drug delivery.
Watch It >


More Product Videos >