PINELLAS PARK — This city has become the county's first municipality to endorse the idea that firefighters should provide ambulance service for the emergency medical services system.
The resolution, passed unanimously at Thursday's City Council meeting, says in part:
"Pinellas Park believes the assumption of emergency and nonemergency EMS transport functions by the current local fire department providers is an idea worthy of discussion. … Pinellas Park urges (the) Pinellas County administration to work with current fire departments to create and implement a system that truly represents the best interest of all residents of Pinellas County and current fire departments."
The resolution also urged the County Commission to refrain from renewing its contract with Paramedics Plus, the Texas company that provides ambulance service under the name Sunstar Paramedics. The contract will end next year unless renewed for another three years.
County Administrator Bob LaSala has warned the EMS system is too expensive. LaSala has proposed changing the way the 18 cities and fire districts that provide EMS are paid. Under the plan he recommends, Pinellas Park could lose as much as $880,811 a year. Other cities and districts could lose more.
Some cities and fire chiefs say LaSala's proposal will simply shift the burden from the county to local taxpayers. Firefighters say that could be avoided if the county let them take the sick and injured to hospitals.
Seminole District Fire Chief Rick Koda submitted one plan for fire transport to the county. Palm Harbor firefighter Scott Sanford and Lealman fire Capt. Jim Millican submitted another. LaSala has dismissed both as unworkable and too expensive. He called the Sanford-Millican plan, with its savings estimates of several million over the first three years, "financially amateurish."
LaSala also cautioned against giving too much credence to firefighter proposals.
"We can't entertain a proposal from two firefighters or one firefighter who doesn't have the authorization to speak for the 18 providers," LaSala said Thursday. If the cities come up with a plan and present it, LaSala said he would be more inclined to listen.
Pinellas Park council member Ed Taylor disagreed, saying people in power should welcome ideas from the employees.
"Nobody seems to want to listen to them," Taylor said. "Why in the world doesn't somebody want to listen to them?"
Reach Anne Lindberg at email@example.com or (727) 893-8450.