By Suzy Kridner
EDGEWATER - If you need an ambulance and the city's rescue truck is the closest one, you will soon be able to ride to an area hospital without waiting for EVAC.
Once all the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed on an agreement with Volusia County, Edgewater Fire and Rescue will be able to transport non-emergency patients to the closest hospital, probably starting Aug. 1.
Emergency patients will still wait for EVAC Ambulance, which has been the countywide provider of ambulance service since 1981, if their ambulance is within 10 minutes of reaching the patient.
Since EAVC covers all 1,207 square miles of Volusia County and its 16 municipalites, sometimes patients have to wait for an ambulance.
For more than a year, Edgewater Fire and Rescue Services personnel have been able to transport emergency patients if EVAC is too far away.
The final approval for a six-month pilot program to allow the Edgewater Fire and Rescue Services, and also the Ponce Inlet Fire Department, to transport non-emergency patients is needed from the Volusia County Council, which meets July 26.
At Monday's meeting of the Edgewater City Commission, approval was given for Mayor
Mike Thomas to sign the Volusia County Medical Transport Pilot Participation agreement with the county.
Edgewater City Manager Tracey Barlow and Fire and Rescue Services Chief Stephen Cousins have been working, along with the county, for several years on the proposal.
Mr. Barlow, who was fire chief before becoming interim city manager in December 2007 and appointed full-time city manager in March 2009, said. "there are times when we have more incidents than ambulances
available. I think in the long term the plan will make emergency services more efficient and enhance the level of services for our residents."
"If it works successfully, it can reduce the burden on EVAC."
"If transporting doesn't bring a benefit or additional services to our residents and is a financial burden, we can re-evaluate," he said.
But Mr. Barlow said he is pretty confident that transporting will be a benefit to Edgewater and its residents.
"I promised the City Council that there would be no additional burden and it won't cost anything additional for the six-month pilot program," Mr. Barlow said.
Ponce Inlet Fire Chief Dan Scales said, "We really don't anticipate our costs going up except for fuel and wear and tear."
Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen agrees.
" ... There should not be an extra cost if they're using existing people," Mr. Dinneen said.
In Edgewater, grants have been received in the last few years that included $931,500 in 2006 and $863,302 in 2010, both for staffing for adequate fire and emergency response.
Funding also was received for new cardiac monitors/defibrillators, advanced life support equipment and reporting software and computers.
Chief Cousins said, "I am excited as the program continues to move forward. We are ready to transport to the appropriate facility."
He said the response time for the fire department is about 4 minutes and 9 to 10 minutes for EVAC. "More often than not the fire deparmtnet arrives first," Chief Cousins said.
Last year, he said, the fire department transported five patients who were in unstable condition and EVAC has a delay.
Bert Fish Medical Center is the closest hospital and "stroke and cardiac alerts go to Bert Fish," the fire chief said. Trauma and obstetrics patients go to Halifax Health. Sometimes health insurance dictates which hospital a patient uses.
Edgewater Fire and Rescue Services personnel are all trained as either paramedics or Emergency Medical Technicians, the Chief said.
Correspondent Michael Salerno contributed to this story.