Adding two more county ambulances in Palm Coast could save money and reduce the time it takes to get patients to the hospital, city officials said.
To city officials, the routine makes no sense: When the city gets 911 medical call, the city — which isn't authorized to transport patients — sends out a big red fire truck with first responders who aid the patient at the scene. Meanwhile, the county — which is authorized to transport patients — sends its ambulance to the same scene, to take the patient to the hospital.
This costs the city a lot of money, because big red fire trucks aren't cheap to run. It also sometimes leaves patients waiting longer to get to the hospital than they would if the first rescuers on the scene — who are often city crews — could load them up and take them to the hospital themselves.
"We have high, high quality EMS service and fire service in this community," City Manager Jim Landon told City Council members at a March 8 City Council workshop. " The citizens are being well taken care of. … That's not our issue here, whatsoever,"
What was, he said, was the matter of efficiency and duplication of service.
"We have a fire station on Belle Terre just north of Easthampton. No Ambulance," Landon said. "The ambulance that serves that area is based in the fire station on Corporate Drive and Palm Coast Parkway. So if a call comes in from the L Section, north of our fire station, we have the resources there in that fire station — personnel, and our engines all have the same equipment, or close to it, as an ambulance — so that when a call comes in, we're going to get there first ... and then the ambulance is going to follow behind us. If you're in the P and the R Section, with Station 25, we're closer because the ambulance for most of those calls is going come out of the airport station, of the county. So they're going to drive past our station, we're already out, and we're going get there first."
The city can't just let the county, with its ambulances, take the call on its own, Landon said: City crews could get there first and stabilize patients for whom seconds matter.
Palm Coast Deputy Fire Chief Jerry Forte said there are ways to fix the duplication problem, without the city needing to be able to transport patients itself, something that would require a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the county.
The city is already using smaller trucks called "jump trucks" to transport medics to the scene of a medical call without sending out a large ambulance, he said in a presentation before the council
But a wider-ranging plan, already discussed with county staff, is a "2+2 plan" that would involve adding two county backup ambulances and two county firefighters to two city fire stations: one county ambulance and firefighter at Station No. 23, and another conty ambulance and firefighter at Station No. 24.
That would bring the total number of county ambulances stationed within the limits of the city of Palm Coast to 4.
The city would then contribute one of its firefighters to ride alongside a county firefighter on each of the two ambulances.
"This would double the number of ambulances in the city of Palm Coast with no additional cost to the county or the city," Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts said.
Each fire station in the city would then be staffed by four firefighters.
"It’s hard to find something negative in this, other than that's it’s a change, and we have to figure out how to work together and make this happen," Landon said. "We believe that next step, that we’re ready for that this point, is getting all the elected officials involved — the County Commissioners and the Palm Coast City Council — and see if we can’t reach an agreement to move forward with this kind of concept."