By Samantha Husted
The future of city-owned emergency medical services will rest in hands of island voters. The ongoing debate regarding local EMS/ambulance control will end on August 28, 2018 with a special referendum vote. As it currently stands, the Board of County Commissioners control the level of emergency medical services allotted to the island at any given time.
On Thursday, Our City Our Ambulance (OCOA), a local group headed by Dr. Jerry Swiacki, hosted a town hall meeting to inform residents about the upcoming referendum. Marco Island Fire Rescue Chief Michael Murphy and City Council Chairman Jared Grifoni spoke in favor of a locally controlled ambulance service.
“I am a big believer in home rule. I’m a big believer in local service. I’m a big believer in local determination of what that service level should be based upon the residents you serve,” Chief Murphy said.
Marco Island is assigned one fulltime Collier County transport ambulance year round. During season, a second ambulance is added to the island. Only Collier County ambulances are authorized to transport patients to the hospital. If there are concurrent medical calls, as is common, and no transport ambulances available, a patient may have to wait for care.
While Marco Island Fire Rescue personnel can respond to the scene, they have to wait for county paramedic crews in order to administer certain medications/treatments. According to Chief Murphy, many of the firefighters have the same training and qualifications as county EMS, but are unable to act due to the current regulations.
During the meeting, Dr. Swiacki explained a scenario in which a man had fallen at the Marco Island Farmers Market and was having an epileptic episode. 9-1-1 was called and the Marco Island Fire Rescue Department arrived on scene and could only provided basic life support care.
“They couldn’t give him any anti-seizure medications until county EMS arrived,” he said.
The push for a city-owned ambulance service began in 2016 after 64 percent of unincorporated Collier County residents voted in favor of turning over EMS from the county to an independent taxing district. In March 2020, the unincorporated fire districts will vote whether or not to consolidate their services. If they vote to consolidate, the future of Marco Island’s EMS service and delivery would be uncertain.
Last year the City of Marco Island hired a consulting firm to assess the feasibility of Marco Island having it’s own EMS/ambulance service. In July 2017, City Council voted 6-1 to pursue a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (COPCN), which eventually led to the creation of a local bill.
State Representative Bob Rommel introduced Local Bill 1395 to the Florida Legislature in early 2018. Last week Governor Rick Scott signed the bill, which will allow residents to vote in favor or against a locally controlled ambulance service on the island.
“The citizens will ultimately have the final say here,” City Council Chairman Jared Grifoni said.