At a recent town talk, I asked Collier County EMS Chief Butcher why she removed Marco Island’s only ambulance as Hurricane Irma was approaching. She replied that because there was a 15’ surge predicted, she removed the ambulance to “protect the asset” and that she “would make the same call again.” I was flabbergasted! Protect the asset? What about protecting the people! We pay tax money to be protected.
Chief Butcher added, “besides, what is the point of keeping an ambulance on the island if there is a flood?” I can make several points on why an ambulance should be kept on Marco Island.
Lives matter! Numerous City employees are required to stay, including police, fire-rescue, water-sewer employees (to prevent sewage flooding our streets), hotel security staffs and some families of the aforementioned. An ambulance should be on the island for the welfare of these brave, hard working people and should be immediately available as soon as driving conditions allow. We need to have the backs of the dedicated city employees who stay to protect Marco Island, its citizens, and keep the City operating functionally.
All of Florida and its’ surrounding states were threatened by Irma. Some citizens stayed because they simply did not know where to go, or if there would be gas available for them to get there.
Marco Island city vehicles were safely staged in the island’s high-rise garages above 15’ surge levels. The ambulance too, could have been staged on high ground.
Chief Butcher removed the ambulance as early as Friday afternoon. The hurricane did not strike until Sunday afternoon. A serious medical emergency occurred Sunday morning. Marco Island paramedics brought the patient down from his condo, safely staged him in their truck, and waited for the Collier ambulance. Two calls later, the Collier ambulance was still too far away. The County does not allow Marco Island paramedics to transport patients, but due to the serious nature of the medical emergency, the increasing wind speeds, and the proximity of the County ambulance, Marco Island paramedics transported the patient to the hospital in 35 to 40 mph winds (ambulances are off the road at 45 mph). For their rescue efforts, Marco Island paramedics received a scathing reprimand from the County.
Removing the island’s only ambulance is only one reason why Marco Island should have control of its ambulance service. Our citizens deserve the life saving right to control the availability and location of our ambulances. Even during a hurricane.
Marco Island should NEVER again, be left without an ambulance. I urge Marco Island citizens to vote YES on August 28thfor local control of OUR ambulance service.
Linda J. Turner