Saturday, June 23, 2018
News Roundup

Three candidates, three EMS plans for Pinellas

The debate on how Pinellas County can get a handle on rising costs for the emergency medical services system has made its way into the race for the at-large County Commission seat.

Two of the candidates, incumbent Norm Roche and challenger Ed Hooper, an outgoing state representative and former firefighter, are facing off in the Aug. 26 Republican primary. The winner will face outgoing Largo Mayor Pat Gerard, a Democrat, in the Nov. 4 general election. They have all staked out distinct positions on the EMS question.

The debate over EMS has become heated at times between Hooper and Gerard, and began earlier this year.

Hooper proposed a hybrid plan that, among other things, would allow fire departments that have transport-ready vehicles to take patients to the hospital. Under the current system, all medical transport is done by a for-profit company that contracts with the county to provide the service. Fire departments are banned from transporting, even if they have transport-capable units, except in rare circumstances.

"The county pays a pretty good lick for all those rescue trucks that can't transport," Hooper said. The situation is that "we're going to buy this nice new vehicle but not use it for what it's (designed) to do. That doesn't make any sense."

Fire departments that have no transport-capable vehicles and no desire to transport still would rely on the private ambulance company. In those cases, he said, the ambulances would be stationed at fire stations, where the paramedics could stay until sent on a call. As things are now, ambulances are moved around the county and can be seen at convenience stores and other places waiting for a call. The ambulance paramedics sit in the vehicle with the engine on and air conditioner running while they wait.

Allowing those paramedics to relax at stations until they're needed provides "a better quality of life for those ambulance employees," Hooper said. There would also be savings in gas, and less wear and tear on the ambulances. And because fire stations are located around the county, response times would not be affected.

Roche also favors fire transport, but he sees it as an "all or nothing" proposal. Either all departments transport, he said, or no department takes patients to the hospital.

Hooper's proposal, he said, would bring back the problems of the past, when fire departments refused to serve anyone but their own citizens. The end result would be "haphazard transport," he said.

"I think it's flawed," Roche said of Hooper's plan. "Going backwards is not the right path to move forward."

Gerard said she believes the issue is "much more complicated than either side, certainly the fire side, talks about."

One complicating factor, she said, is the way the ambulance side of the system is financed. Paramedics Plus provides both emergency and nonemergency transport. Nonemergency transportation involves taking patients from one hospital to another, to a doctor's office or even out of county to another medical center. The county bills for both emergency and nonemergency transport, but Gerard said she believes the bulk of the revenue comes from nonemergency transport.

"I don't see our fire people doing that," Gerard said. That means fire would transport emergencies and the private ambulance company would continue to be in charge of nonemergency transport. But the finances of that would likely make the system unsustainable, she said.

The contract with the ambulance company is up next year. So it's likely that whoever wins the seat will vote on whether to renew the contract. If the county could "strike a decent deal with them, I would have them stay," she said.

Contact Anne Lindberg at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450. Follow @alindbergtimes.

Comments
Lightning takes Quebec LW Gabriel Fortier with second-round pick

Lightning takes Quebec LW Gabriel Fortier with second-round pick

The Lightning is on the board in the 2018 NHL draft, using their first pick — 59th overall in the second round — on Gabriel Fortier, an undersize left wing from Quebec."I spoke with them a couple of times, so I knew there was an interest,...
Updated: 26 minutes ago
Sanders says she was told to leave Virginia restaurant

Sanders says she was told to leave Virginia restaurant

WASHINGTON (AP) — White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders acknowledged Saturday in a tweet that she was booted from a Virginia restaurant Friday night because she works for President Donald Trump.Sanders said she was told by the owner of T...
Updated: 1 hour ago
For starters: Rays vs. Yankees, looking for two straight

For starters: Rays vs. Yankees, looking for two straight

After hanging on for a 2-1 last night over the MLB-best Yankees, the Rays are looking to make it two in a row today.And their lineup will have a different look, with INF Joey Wendle making his first career appearance,  majors or minors, in the o...
Updated: 2 hours ago
FHP: Wrong-way driver hit 100 miles per hour before sideswiping car

FHP: Wrong-way driver hit 100 miles per hour before sideswiping car

A Clearwater man who authorities said sideswiped a car while driving more than 100 miles per hour the wrong way on U.S. 41 was arrested Friday. Wendel Jamel James, 35, is charged with DUI with property damage, reckless driving and leaving the scene ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
‘Notorious RBG’ wanted to be a singer. Now, a CD celebrates her life.

‘Notorious RBG’ wanted to be a singer. Now, a CD celebrates her life.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has often said, in interviews, that she would have loved to have been an opera singer.She has certainly become a fixture at many opera houses around the country: She is often spotted in the audience; she sometimes presides...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Besides the continual evolution of their intriguing pitching plan, the primary topics of conversation for the Rays over the next several weeks will be trades and prospects. And not mutually exclusively.Some sooner than others, the Rays are going to c...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Oldsmar cheer coach faces new sexual battery charges

Oldsmar cheer coach faces new sexual battery charges

An Oldsmar cheerleading coach charged this week with sending explicit images to a minor now faces additional sexual battery charges.Victor Martin Valenty, 28, is accused of having "inappropriate sexual activity" with a 15-year-old at his home for mor...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Migrants denied access to lawyers, held in cells 23 hours a day, ACLU lawsuit alleges

Migrants denied access to lawyers, held in cells 23 hours a day, ACLU lawsuit alleges

After crossing the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum, 123 men have been detained for weeks, caged in prison cells for up to 23 hours per day and denied access to attorneys at a federal detention center in Sheridan, Oregon, a lawsuit filed Friday by t...
Updated: 5 hours ago
First step for Hillsborough schools facing biggest challenges: Hire more teachers

First step for Hillsborough schools facing biggest challenges: Hire more teachers

TAMPA — As chief of diversity for the Hillsborough County School District, Minerva Spanner-Morrow tries to keep her expectations realistic."We want the best of the best and I know that’s very difficult," she told principals last week as they prepared...
Published: 06/23/18
Girl Scout convinces companies to cut down on millions of plastic straws

Girl Scout convinces companies to cut down on millions of plastic straws

Last fall, the CEO of San Francisco-based Dignity Health received an email out of the blue. It was from a 16-year-old Girl Scout named Shelby O’Neil. With all due respect, she wrote, the company’s "Human Kindness" commercial had a glarin...
Updated: 2 hours ago