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Consultant's study of EMS misses deadline; Pinellas County extends it

Pinellas County agreed last year to pay $130,000 for a study of the emergency medical services system to be delivered in July, but the consultant failed to meet that deadline.

County officials extended that deadline to September. But no study — nor draft — has been forthcoming.

Yet county officials have paid $58,500 so far to Integral Performance Solutions. They also paid the company an additional $3,250 for a workshop on management skills. And finally, they've extended the contract for another 15 months.

"While it is true that the contract time line (has) not been met, it is also true that we have only paid for the deliverables that have been received at this point," assistant county administrator James Dates said.

It's unclear what Dates means by "deliverables." Both he and County Administrator Bob LaSala say Pinellas has nothing in writing from IPS. Yet that's what the contract calls for.

The latest time line shows IPS was scheduled to turn in a written draft by Aug. 30, more than a month later than the date in the original contract. In return, the county would cut IPS a check for $19,500. And, Pinellas records show the county wrote a $19,500 check to IPS on Aug. 24 for a "milestone payment" for "Presentation of Draft Findings and Recommendations."

But IPS has given the county nothing in writing, LaSala said. IPS gave an oral presentation of its findings so far.

"We are meeting the end of this month with the consultant … to go over final issues," LaSala said Monday. "In mid November, and I don't know the exact date, we will get a first draft."

The report, whether in draft or final form, is eagerly awaited by politicians, taxpayers and employees in the various fire and EMS districts. Most concede that the Pinellas system needs to change, and they hope the study will provide the answer for the future.

LaSala and Dates said they are aware of the importance of the report. That's part of the reason behind the extended deadlines.

When the county has done EMS studies in the past, Dates said, critics said not enough time was spent analyzing data.

And, LaSala said, the contract itself was extended to make sure IPS and its president, Mic Gunderson, would be around to provide their expertise while the county is debating issues raised by the report.

Gunderson, 54, is well known in the Pinellas EMS system. He has worked as a paramedic for the Palm Harbor Fire Department and for Pinellas County EMS in the medical director's office from 1990 to 1995. During those years, he was also a member of the adjunct faculty in the EMS Continuing Medical Education Program at St. Petersburg Junior College (now St. Petersburg College).

While working in the medical director's office, he co-wrote many articles. His co-authors included Mike Wallace, now Largo's fire chief, and Craig Hare, the county's EMS division manager.

Both Wallace and Hare served on the committee that chose IPS to do Pinellas' EMS study. Both gave IPS the highest marks of the eight companies that submitted proposals. The other five members of the selection committee also gave IPS the highest marks.

The IPS proposal indicated it could have the job done in 23 weeks from a starting date in January. But the contract, which was signed in December, set out a longer schedule that included 10 written draft reports and recommendations that were due the week of May 24. The final written report was due July 5.

None of those was delivered.

The county amended the contract on June 25 to extend the contract for 15 months (to February 2012 from November). The time line additionally changed to call for a first draft written report the week of Aug. 30 and a final report the week of Sept. 27.

The county has since orally extended those deadlines.

"Any adjustments to those deadlines were agreed to by us,'' LaSala said. "He's been responsible."

Reach Anne Lindberg at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450.

Consultant's study of EMS misses deadline; Pinellas County extends it 10/19/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 1:29pm]
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