Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas fire officials say county numbers not real in EMS feud

When county officials hired a consultant to analyze proposed changes to Pinellas' emergency medical services system, they used real statistics from 2010-2011 for comparison.

But when they came to the County Commission in February with a proposal to radically change the way the system is funded, they didn't use the most recent data that was readily available on their own computer system.

Instead, they estimated the workload by adding 4 percent to the 2010-11 statistics. But doing that severely underestimates the actual workload for the firefighter-paramedics who provide first response EMS service, fire and city officials say. The difference is so serious, that the proposal is flawed and unworkable, they say.

"They created a simulated Pinellas County," Clearwater fire Chief Robert Weiss said. "In their own report, they state their simulation does not represent reality. We work in reality."

It's not the first time Pinellas fire chiefs have complained about the county's use of data.

"It's another example of how we have struggled over the years to get reliable data and use up-to-date statistics," said Bert Polk, head of the Pinellas County Fire Chiefs Association. "Here we are in 2014 and we're getting ready to implement some of the most sweeping changes in how we deliver EMS . . . and we're using assumptions."

Polk, chief of Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue, added, "Those numbers continue to be at the root of a lot of the controversy.

"Our system collects data instantaneously. I don't see how that is so problematic to get up-to-date information," Polk said. "I'm still at a loss as to why we're using assumptions for data that is almost instantaneously available out of the (county computer)."

Bruce Moeller, the county's director of safety and emergency services, agreed the numbers were estimates. But he defended the methodology, saying that using the real data would have taken too long and would have added to the cost.

"It's a lot of work," Moeller said last week. "It would have been expensive. . . . It would have been cost-prohibitive."

Besides, Moeller said, the estimates were accurate as to the workloads of each fire vehicle in the county.

"We didn't lose calls in this," Moeller said.

But Weiss and other chiefs say Moeller is wrong.

Take Clearwater, for example. The report estimates that the city fielded 23,279 calls for fire and EMS service in 2012-13. In reality, Weiss said, the city answered 26,355 calls, or 3,076 more than is shown in the county proposal.

The same is true elsewhere.

The county's study estimated Largo answered 18,348 calls in 2012-13. In reality, fire Chief Shelby Willis said, Largo responded to 22,870 fire and medical emergency calls, or 4,522 more calls than the county estimate.

And in Pinellas Park, the county estimated there were 13,126 calls for service that fiscal year. Fire Chief Guy Keirn said the county's computer shows his city answered 15,238 calls during that time, 2,112 more than the county estimated in creating its proposal.

The chiefs say they're not being picky. The mistake, they say, is crucial when trying to figure out if the county plan will work. Among other things, the proposal would radically change the way the county pays the five busiest departments — St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Largo, Pinellas Park and Lealman — for providing first-response EMS service.

Currently, the county pays for 24-hour shifts filled by firefighter-paramedics. Under the proposal, some firefighter-paramedics would still be paid for 24-hour shifts, while others would be paid for 14-hour shifts. The effect is to remove firefighters from the streets. That would happen between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., when the county says there are fewer calls for service. Moeller and other county staff members say it's a workable plan that won't adversely affect service or endanger sick people. They point to the analysis to support their claim.

But the chiefs say that analysis is so flawed it makes the plan unworkable. Translate those underestimated calls, they say, into time. Moeller agrees that the average time a firefighter-paramedic spends on a call is 25 to 30 minutes.

In the case of Clearwater, multiply that duration by 3,076, the number of uncounted calls, and you come up with 1,282 to 1,538 hours a year that the county didn't figure into its calculations. That's between about 3 ½ to 4 hours a day that's unaccounted for in the county plan. That, the chiefs say, will translate into longer waits for sick people and fire victims who call for service.

"All we're saying, is the (proposal) doesn't reflect reality, doesn't reflect (what's happening) on the street," Weiss said. "Those calls reflect work."

Anne Lindberg can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450. Follow @ALindbergTimes on Twitter.

Pinellas fire officials say county numbers not real in EMS feud 04/22/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 22, 2014 2:35pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Mandarin Hide celebrates 7 years serving craft cocktails in St. Petersburg

    Bars & Spirits

    ST. PETERSBURG

    With its mascot, a mounted buffalo head named Manny, decked out in streamers and a shiny party hat, the Mandarin Hide celebrated seven years of serving cocktails on Central Avenue last Thursday night.

    Mandarin Hide’s mascot, a buffalo head named Manny, donned streamers and a shiny party hat as the bar celebrated seven years of serving cocktails last week.
  2. Florida education news: Working conditions, school choice, teacher housing and more

    Blogs

    WORK CONDITIONS: Two teachers at a Pinellas County middle school request transfers out, saying the campus has become "hostile and racially charged." The …

    Pinellas Park Middle School
  3. Forecast: Break out those sweaters, Tampa Bay, as cooler weather just a day away

    Weather

    Tampa Bay residents will finally be able to break out their sweaters and boots this week, but not until enduring yet another humid, rainy day to start the workweek.

    Tampa Bay's 7-day forecast. [WTSP]
  4. Justin Timberlake in Super Bowl halftime show for first time since 'wardrobe malfunction'

    Celebrities

    Justin Timberlake has finally been invited back to the Super Bowl halftime show, 14 years after the "wardrobe malfunction" with Janet Jackson caused a national controversy.

    Singer Janet Jackson covers her breast as Justin Timberlake holds part of her costume after her outfit came undone during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston in 2004. The NFL announced Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, that Timberlake will headline the Super Bowl halftime show Feb. 4 in Minnesota, 14 years after the "wardrobe malfunction" with Janet Jackson cause a national controversy. [Associated Press]
  5. Here's what happened when 30 high school sophomores gave up their phones for a day

    K12

    LUTZ — They were everywhere at Steinbrenner High School. Teens with panic-stricken faces, furiously slapping one thigh, then the other.

    Grace Hayes, 15, left, and Kai'Rey Lewis, 15, talk and text friends after having a discussion about smartphone technology in Tiffany Southwell's English Literature class at Steinbrenner High last week. Southwell asked theme to give up their phones for a day and write about it. For Lewis, the ride home that day "was the longest bus ride in my life." [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]