Fla. FF/paramedics will likely get permission to practice ALS

North Collier Fire District medics could practice ALS only in one of the two districts they covered

By Greg Stanley
Naples Daily News

NAPLES, Fla. — At long last, Big Corkscrew firefighters are expected to get the greenlight Tuesday to practice advanced life support.

If Collier County commissioners give the OK, paramedics with the North Collier Fire District — a newly formed district created with the merger of the North Naples and Big Corkscrew Island fire districts — will be able to start advanced treatment on patients inside the former Big Corkscrew boundaries before an ambulance arrives.

The firefighters are already allowed to use the treatment inside the old North Naples district.

“It means we’ll be able to provide the same level of service in the Corkscrew area as we do in North Naples,” said Jorge Aguilera, emergency medical services chief for North Collier fire. “This is without a doubt a positive for that community.”

The treatment has long been a point of contention between the county government and the various independent fire districts in Collier.

Fire departments have trained paramedics on staff who want to be able to start an IV, regulate a patient’s airflow or inject lifesaving drugs, especially in North Collier where paramedics can use the treatment in half the district, but can’t in the other half.

The county historically has argued that it is better to have relatively few paramedics practicing advanced treatment. That way they stay sharp through repetition, knowing how best to administer drugs that can be lifesaving, but also can cause harm. Too many paramedics means too little practical experience for each.

In early 2014, Corkscrew sought and was denied this same county license. After the denial, the district immediately took up efforts to merge with North Naples, which was the only fire district in the county with the license.

When commissioners denied Corkscrew the license, however, they also approved a plan to bring more county trained paramedics to the rural parts of the county. The county agreed to hire one paramedic per shift to work on a Corkscrew fire engine — that way if that engine responded to an emergency before an ambulance the paramedic could start treatment.

The county’s emergency officials have recommended that commissioners terminate that deal with Corkscrew and move those paramedics to other parts of the county if firefighters are given the treatment license.

Corkscrew has 10 trained paramedics on staff who will be able to start almost immediately, Aguilera said.

“Over the last seven or eight months we’ve been getting people trained and ready for this,” he said. “We still need to get some medical equipment, monitors, medication and things like that.

©2015 the Naples Daily News

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