Pinellas EMS Funds Could be gone by 2013

The money that funds Pinellas County’s emergency medical services could be depleted by 2013.

But so far, the county and the city of St. Petersburg don’t agree on how to fix that problem.

During an all-day meeting on Monday, local leaders discussed the possibility of St. Pete losing more than $7 million for fire and EMS services as the county strives to deal with economic hardships of its own.

According to Monday’s joint meeting agenda, “The high cost of salaries, pensions and benefits for the city’s firefighter/paramedics” is a primary concern. So is the cost of the current strategy for service, which often incorporates firefighters responding to a medical emergency before paramedics. The county would like St. Pete Fire Rescue to cut costs when it comes to service and personnel.

But St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster warns that the plan could force residents to wait longer during an urgent situation.

He’d like all the county’s fire and EMS departments to look for ways to cut costs, rather than having St. Pete take the bulk of the cuts.

“If my heart attack occurs in Tarpon Springs or Pinellas Point, I’m still getting a great level of service and they’re still getting me to the hospital quickly. I think we should maintain this level of care, but look for cost efficiencies,” Foster said.

Pinellas County’s EMS system serves nearly a million people through agreements with local fire departments.

A recent study revealed that raising the county’s EMS tax would not solve the problem.

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