THE ISSUE: EMS staffing ‘beyond critical.’

OUR OPINION: County needs to resolve issue.

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Nature Coast EMS staffing levels are “beyond critical,” according to Nature Coast chief and CEO Scott Baxter. County Commissioner Scott Carnahan said the commission wants to help Nature Coast, but it’s going to need detailed information, adding that Baxter could have taken steps to slow the loss of employees until his financial issues were sorted out with the county.

Now, the Professional Firefighters of Citrus County is urging county commissioners to bring EMS services under the umbrella of Citrus County Fire Rescue.

The fire-based EMS system is not a new concept, according to Thomas Ratchford is president of the Professional Firefighters of Citrus County International Association of Firefighters Local 4562.

That is true.

Most of the counties in the state already incorporate a fire-based EMS system, Ratchford pointed out, including neighboring counties such as Marion, Levy, Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco, Alachua, Orange and Polk.

This, Rachford wrote, is due in large part to the many benefits of a fire-based EMS system, including:

  • Increased efficiency.
  • Improved effectiveness 
  • Streamlining purchasing.
  • Consolidation/disbursement of supplies. 
  • Improved training opportunities.
  • Omit duplication of services.
  • Enhanced services.
  • Reduced costs.
  • Cost avoidances.
  • Standardization. 
  • Potential reduced ISO (Insurance Services Office) rating.
  • Improved customer service.

Those are valid and logical reasons our citizens want to hear. We, the citizens of Citrus County, deserve top-level services, especially when it relates to public safety.

The lynchpin to it all, however, is the county commission. Our commissioners have repeatedly told us they understand the situation But when the rubber (money) meets the road (taxes), commissioners repeatedly balk. The county, historically, has shown an unwillingness to make the tough decisions, basing their reasoning on fiscal prudence.

Whether the county continues its partnership with Nature Coast EMS or CCFR, the money to operate EMS services will have to come from somewhere. It’s going to cost more to provide a service that is the responsibility of our elected officials.

This, folks, is not a want it is a critical need.

We need our elected officials to step up and make the right choices, and we need the community to support the decision.