Florida city considers dropping emergency transport to save money

By Anne Lindberg
The St. Petersburg Times

ST. PETERSBURG — This city could bring in millions of extra dollars if it pulled out of the countywide emergency services system and let firefighters take patients to the hospital, concludes a St. Petersburg-sponsored study.

“We aren’t saying that we think the best option is for us to go our own way,” St. Petersburg city administrator Tish Elston said. “Our last option would be for us to separate ourselves from the system. I hope that’s not necessary.”

It’s unclear what the effect would be if St. Petersburg did pull out of the EMS system. At least one fire chief says it could bring the system to its knees. Paramedics Plus, the private company that provides ambulance service for the county under the name Sunstar, might not stay if its profit margin drops. And some smaller departments do not have the capability to provide transport.

“I’ve always said if St. Pete pulls out, the deck of cards crumbles,” Largo fire Chief Mike Wallace said. “What’s left would not be financially viable.”

One possibility is that “the system simply fractures and goes back to the pre-1985 world where every agency fends for themselves,” Wallace said. “I think we’re going to be in for interesting times.”

Palm Harbor fire Chief James Angle disagreed, saying that as long as St. Petersburg continued to provide mutual aid and participate in other ways, the changeover to firefighter transport would not bring down the system.

Read the full article here.

What do you think of the story? Has your community faced a similar decision?