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Largo Supports County Plan to Save Money on Ambulance Calls

Pinellas County Adminstrator Bob LaSala recommends dispatching only Sunstar units on certain calls and not the fire department too, according to a city report.

Changes may come to how emergency personnel respond to calls in Largo.

The Largo City Commission supported this week the county adminstrator's recommendation to dispatch just Sunstar ambulances on certain calls for emergency medical services.

In Pinellas County there is one ambulance provider, Paramedic Plus, operating under the trade name "Sunstar."

Right now, the current dual response system requires both the fire department and an ambulance be dispatched on calls, according to a city report.

The system is part of "priority medical dispatch" and uses an internationally recognized list of computer-generated questions known as "structural interrogation" to determine which services are needed for each 911 call, said Largo Fire Chief Michael Wallace. 

In 2010, Pinellas County took the first steps in implementing priority medical dispatch, when it decided to dispatch only fire department units on calls that typically do not require transport, according to a city report.

This next proposed step would send just ambulances on some calls. Wallace said the example he likes to use is the healthy 16-year-old male that has a sprain, strain or simple fracture, which does not require the fire department vehicle. For those calls under the proposed system, just an ambulance would be sent. 

The proposed system would apply only in about 8,000 cases per year. There are 105,000 calls within the county per year, with Largo Fire responding to a total of 17,000 calls per year, Wallace said.

"When in doubt, we send them out. That's the main axiom of emergency medicine," Wallace said.

The city realizes sending only one vehicle on some calls could reduce unnecessary calls for service, keeping vehicles available for life-threatening medical emergencies or fires. Sending just one vehicle on some calls "may reduce the operating costs for both the Largo Fire Rescue Department and the County EMS system as a whole," according to a city report.

The city commission also supported County Adminstrator Bob LaSala's recommendation to just dispatch Sunstar ambulances when tranporting patients from one facility to another. 

Wallace said the city's fire department union does not support the proposal, because the union feels if a citizen calls for help, the local municipality should respond to that cry for help.

Wallace said there are about 35 ambulances on the road at a time in the county. Residents can follow online where emergency services are dispatched.

The city's resolution supports the county's efforts to further implement Priority Medical Dispatch. But there is a lot of opposition to the proposal from other cities, said Mayor Pat Gerard.

pikehunter November 07, 2012 at 01:50 PM
This is retarded. If you have city fire ambulances, why do you need to have a secondary service?

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