Florida County Response Times Show Steady Improvement

Collier County ambulance response times have been steadily improving in spots since commissioners started adding nearly $1 million in staff and equipment early this year, Emergency Medical Service records show.

Response times have dropped in Marco Island and Big Corkscrew Island, where the county has added either full ambulance crews or new paramedics.

When resources are added and response times fall in certain areas, over time it leads to quicker responses in surrounding areas and the county as a whole, EMS Chief Walter Kopka said.

“It’s a domino effect,” Kopka said. “When you have concurrent calls — two different calls at once — you have to pull an ambulance from bordering zones to respond. That slows down the response in those zones. But we’ve had significant improvements with these first three months of data, especially on Marco Island.”

A new seasonal ambulance for Marco Island, which is staffed from January until April, helped paramedics respond to 911 calls on time — within eight minutes — 90 percent of the time from Feb. 1 to April 30. That’s up from 74 percent of on-time responses over the same period in 2013 and 79 percent in 2012, records show.

In Big Corkscrew Island, where the county has embedded three paramedics with existing fire crews since April, on-time responses have jumped to 81 percent, up from 72 percent during the same period in 2012 and 2013, early data show.

Because Collier commissioners have not allowed Big Corkscrew firefighters — along with all firefighters in the county other than in North Naples and in the city of Naples — to practice advanced lifesaving techniques before county-staffed paramedics arrive on scene, the quicker county response means the quicker patients can get critical lifesaving care, including IVs and epinephrine and other drugs.

Big Corkscrew firefighters, who respond to a vast and mostly rural area in northeastern Collier County, have been able to use the county’s paramedics to start advanced treatment on patients since the day they arrived, said Eric Watson, operations captain of the Big Corkscrew Island fire district.

“It’s been outstanding,” Watson said. “Whenever the (ambulance) assigned to this zone is busy or otherwise encumbered, we can fill that stop gap with minimal to no delay.”

More improvements to the northern side of the county are on the way.

Within the next year, Collier officials plan to build a $1.6 million EMS station with an ambulance bay on Vanderbilt Beach Road just east of Interstate 75. Plans for the new station date back to 2007, but the project was put on hold after the housing market collapse in 2008, Kopka said.

“Now we need to get those plans updated and make sure they have the right permits and work out the technical details of the building,” he said.

The station will house one ambulance with two paramedics on each shift. It will serve the Vineyards development, parts of Golden Gate Estates, North Naples and Big Corkscrew areas. Ambulances are on time more often in North Naples compared with 2013, but response times are up compared with 2012, something Kopka attributes to a jump in the number of calls since 2012.

In the three zones that cover North Naples, on-time responses are at 71 percent, 76 percent and 89 percent since April compared with 70 percent, 74 percent and 87 percent, respectively, in 2013.

In 2012, the percentage of on-time responses was higher at 73 percent, 83 percent and 91 percent, respectively, while the number of calls dropped 18 percent, 10 percent and 15 percent.