Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas officials back off hard line on EMS plan

Staff members are working on what the interim county administrator describes as a "sea change" in the way Pinellas handles the emergency medical services system.

The philosophical shift would see the county providing funds for the system and setting performance standards. The 18 cities and fire districts that provide EMS service would then determine how they would use that money to provide EMS service and meet the performance requirements. One such is that they answer medical calls within 7½ minutes 90 percent of the time — a requirement under the current system.

"It's really about, how much are we going to pay?" interim County Administrator Mark Woodard said Thursday. "That's kind of a sea change. … That is a shift."

Previous county administrator Bob LaSala, who was fired two weeks ago, was pushing a plan that cut EMS budgets and dictated how the money would be used.

The prospect of a philosophical change at the county level comes as a bit of good news for county fire officials.

"That provides some encouragement, but the discussion is still about funding," said Bert Polk, head of the Pinellas Fire Chiefs Association. "I think this will all rest in their final funding proposals."

Polk, chief of the Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue District, added, "I still believe there is going to be considerable ground to cover."

The concept of the county paying for EMS service, which has an overall budget of $116 million, and allowing the departments to decide how to best deliver the service is not a new one. It's the idea that drove the way the system is set up — with Pinellas collecting a countywide EMS property tax and disbursing the funds to the cities and districts.

But the county had gotten away from that in recent years under LaSala.

His latest proposal, for example, chose fire stations where the county said there were too many firefighter-paramedics late at night. The county said it would no longer pay all the firefighter-paramedics in those stations for 24-hour shifts. Some, the county said, would be paid only for 14-hour shifts. Those cuts, totalling about $2.3 million over three years, were aimed at the five busiest departments — St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Largo, Pinellas Park and Lealman. The proposal also placed a three-year freeze on payments to all 18 departments.

Woodard said that, under his new philosophy, the part of the proposal that would decide the length of shifts for firefighters would be off the table. It's too early to tell, he said, whether the proposed cuts and freeze will remain in the discussion.

"We are looking hard at those two key elements," he said.

What stays on the table, Woodard said, depends on what is the best way financially to make sure the EMS system is sustainable in the long run.

Some indication of what that might look like could come as early as Friday when Woodard and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman are scheduled to meet to talk about LaSala's proposal. Kriseman has said he and Woodard are on the verge of an agreement over the funding.

Polk said he hopes the county isn't trying to cut a deal with St. Petersburg, hoping that the other 17 providers will fall into line.

"It's going to depend on what any agreement with St. Pete looks like. But I don't know that an agreement with St. Pete equates to 'We've solved the whole countywide problem,' " Polk said.

As for the rest of the departments, he said, "We're being ignored."

That won't be for long. Largo, Pinellas Park and Lealman have voted to take the county through a dispute resolution process over the proposal. The process is a mandatory step before governments can sue each other. So far, Pinellas Suncoast, East Lake and Safety Harbor have voted to join the process.

Anne Lindberg can be reached at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450. Follow @alindbergtimes on Twitter.

Pinellas officials back off hard line on EMS plan 04/30/14 [Last modified: Thursday, May 1, 2014 12:13am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review / photos: Sunset Music Festival brings Major Lazer, safety upgrades to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa

    Blogs

    Somewhere beyond the barricades and mountainous LED stages of the Sunset Music Festival, there had to be worry. There had to thousands of parents in parking lots and empty kitchens, anxiously distracting their minds, every now and then checking their phones.

    Major Lazer headlined the Sunset Music Festival on May 27, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
  2. 24-year-old man charged with murder in shooting at Andrea Cove Motel

    LARGO — Pinellas sheriff's officers arrested a 24-year-old transient man Saturday in connection with a homicide at the Andrea Cove Motel in unincorporated Largo.

  3. Photo gallery: Calvary Christian rolls to state title

    Blogs

    View a gallery of images from Calvary Christian's defeat of Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers for the Class 4A title.

    Calvary Christian players circle up on the field before the FHSAA class 4A baseball championship against Pensacola Catholic on Friday May 27, 2017 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. Calvary scored 6 runs in the first inning, and had 7 hits.
  4. Two girls found safe after being reported missing in New Port Richey

    UPDATE: Both girls were found safe Saturday night, police said.

  5. IT failure blamed for British Airways cancellations (w/video)

    Airlines

    LONDON — British Airways canceled all flights from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports on Saturday as a global IT failure upended the travel plans of tens of thousands of people on a busy U.K. holiday weekend.

    Passengers wait at a British Airways check-in desk after the airport suffered an IT systems failure Saturday at London''s Gatwick Airport. [Associated Press]