After a marathon negotiation session, officials from both Collier County and North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District say they are close to a deal that could end a monthslong lawsuit over how paramedics are trained and supervised.
Details still have to be worked out and any agreement would have to be approved by both county commissioners and fire commissioners. But the sides seem to have reached a tentative deal on the “principle terms and conditions,” said Collier County Commissioner Tim Nance, who will present the proposed deal to the rest of the county commission Tuesday.
“It’s still ongoing, but I’m very optimistic,” Nance said.
Fire district officials will review the proposal 5 p.m. Monday.
Under the deal, the fire district would agree to have the county medical director in charge of setting protocols, training and recertification standards for the district’s medics, a main concession the county has been seeking for months.
The district, in turn, would keep its own licensing and recertification standards in place until the end of 2017.
“This looks workable,”
said fire Commissioner Jim Burke. “The important thing is to keep (advanced life support) services flowing.”
The agreement would end a legal fight that began this past fall, when county commissioners refused to renew the district’s certificate to hire its own medical director train medics advanced techniques. Commissioners had approved the certificate – called a COPCN – in each of the last five years.
Fire officials sued the county in October, saying commissioners never gave them a fair hearing, and asked a judge to order commissioners to renew their medic certificate.
If the license expires before a deal is reached or a decision comes from the courts, the 85 paramedics with North Collier fire would no longer be able to practice the full gamut of medic procedures. The fire district medics would be replaced by nine county medics, working on overtime, under a county contingency plan that will cost taxpayers about $1 million more a year to keep medic response times close to where they are today, according to county estimates.
The district, which includes North Naples, Big Corkscrew Island and about half of Golden Gate Estates, would also go from having a medic on board between seven and 11 quick response vehicles to having a medic on board three vehicles.
Under the proposal, the district would also agree to follow the county’s ride-time requirements, having paramedics ride along with a patient in a county ambulance to the hospital every time advanced techniques are used. The fire district had wanted its medics to ride along only when specifically requested by the county paramedic on scene.
The deal would ensure that service levels remain the same for the next year, said Jorge Aguilera, North Collier deputy chief of emergency medical services.
“The people in our community will not even know there was ever a problem,” he said.