We live in paradise on Marco Island and everyone that drives across the Judge Jolley Bridge attests to that as soon as they arrive and speak to any of us locals. Therefore, it is surprising that as a community we become embroiled in so many controversies. Some we unfortunately bring upon ourselves, while others are a result of trying to do what is right.
For several years now city staff, council members and residents have been attempting to wrestle with the issue of enhancing emergency medical services here on the island. This while dealing with some of the inequities that we see regarding how the county delivers those services.
This should never be seen as an issue about the quality of the men and women who deliver those services from the county. They are some of the best that have chosen to enter that field, and a number of them have been hired by the Marco Island Fire Rescue Department as they’ve sought to improve their opportunities in their professions.
In 2013, then City Councilor Amadeo Petricca made it one of his priorities to have the county add another fulltime unit to the island. This additional unit would bolster the response abilities by the county in addition to the response by the Marco department. A compromise was reached and the unit was added during the peak seasonal months from 9 AM to 9 PM daily.
Further negotiations to add the unit on a fulltime basis never gained the support of county staff, but we would continue work towards that goal.
A more important issue to me was the inability of Marco Island Paramedic/Firefighters to administer certain medications. These medications are part of the standard protocol for county paramedics and can greatly assist in their efforts to save lives. Those important medications may also assist in minimizing the effects of life threatening strokes or cardiac incidents, which may leave patients seriously impaired going forward.
Mind you, the city paramedics are all trained to the same level as county personnel. They follow the same training protocols and other educational standards, but are essentially handcuffed in regards to utilizing those skills in many cases.
Over the last three years, the city and the county have been embroiled in a heated and contentious debate over these issues and the losers are the citizens of not only the city, but of all those within the county.
There are many times, especially during our season, that numerous calls come back to back; as many as four or five consecutive calls of varying degrees of seriousness come in one after the other. A motor vehicle accident with entrapment, a cardiac arrest, a man that has fallen in the shower or a possible drowning at the beach can all be heard at times being dispatched consecutively.
Some of those dispatched units from the county may be as far away as 20 minutes and result in a negative outcome. The ability to utilize those lifesaving medications could be the difference between life and death for an individual.
During the last session of the legislature the island was granted the right to apply directly to the state to obtain the necessary Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (COPCN) which would enable the city to move forward should the county refuse our application. We are on the verge of receiving that approval after considerable debate and negotiations, however we need to be vigilant as we move forward.
One of the caveats required by the state approved legislation was the approval of island residents by a referendum vote. On August 28 you will have the ability as a body politic to put your stamp of approval on this provision if you chose.
Some have attempted to cloud the debate by injecting age-old political shenanigans into the issue. The attacks on the fire chief’s wife and other citizens were uncalled for. The use of gutter language when addressing her in a hallway before a Collier County hearing on the issue was crass and vulgar. As the wife of a member of the nation’s first responder family, she didn’t give up her rights to work towards a better island and improved services.
In the next several days as you sit at the dinner table and look into the eyes of your loved ones, or step out from your golf cart and think about what club you’ll use for your next shot, think about this. While just walking down the aisle of the grocery store, and saying hello to friends, think about what all their lives are worth. Think about the fact that you have the ability to make a difference.
Should we have gotten to this point? I don’t think so. However, we are here and we have the opportunity to make a difference. It now becomes a question of whether we move forward.
A lot of young men and women are deployed around the world to insure you have the right to make these decisions. Take the time to vote and honor their commitments by voting your conscience, but please, cast your vote.
Steve Stefanides, well-known by his nickname “Stef,” is an experienced award-winning reporter of local civic and public interest news. Stef’s More Straight Talk column (and its predecessor, Straight Talk), on a variety of subjects, is a favorite of readers who trust him to bring them the facts. A Marco Island resident, Stef contributes to the community in many ways, having served on a number of city committees, charitable groups, boards and local organizations. Contact him by email at Stef@coastalbreezenews.com