NORTH NAPLES, Fla. – Twenty-five North Naples firefighters are no longer allowed to work as paramedics because they haven’t met training requirements set by Collier County Medical Director Dr. Bob Tober.
North Naples Fire Chief Orly Stolts said the move puts good medics out of commission and endangers residents. “What he’s done is minimized the fire department’s ability to save lives,” Stolts said of Tober. “We’re going to have to stand there and wait to give life-saving medication until an ambulance arrives at the scene. That puts our guys in a pretty hard spot.”
But Tober said he’s actually protecting those residents. He said the 25 firefighters who haven’t met advance life support requirements can still provide basic life support – using defibrillators, administering oxygen, taking blood pressure and setting up intravenous lines. “It goes without saying that I would do nothing to threaten the public,” Tober said. “As a matter of fact, everything I do is to protect the public.”
In an Aug. 19 letter to Stolts, Collier County EMS Chief Jeff Page identified 19 North Naples firefighters who have not complied with a February “ride time” mandate that requires each of the county’s firefighter-paramedics to work at least one 24-hour shift on an ambulance every quarter.
Stolts said arranging to have his firefighters pulled from an engine once a month causes significant scheduling and overtime difficulties. Six other firefighters didn’t have the proper training records on file, according to the letter. Stolts said those six firefighters have been working under Tober since 2006, but haven’t yet met new training requirements. “They understood this clearly. They didn’t meet the directive,” Tober said of the firefighters. “I think they just assumed I wrote the requirements that I wasn’t going to enforce.” Stolts said Tober has decertified about half of the paramedics. “We’re down to 17 paramedics that ride the trucks now,” he said. “Four or five a shift is all we have left.”
Tober has been in an ongoing feud with several Collier County fire departments for years. Most recently he accused North Naples and East Naples firefighters of cheating on a protocols test. However, the state Department of Health declined to investigate Tober’s complaint, saying it was legally insufficient.