CREATED Mar. 13, 2013
BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. - Lehigh Acres and Fort Myers Beach don't rely on the county for ambulance transport . They provide their own. And for the past three years, Bonita Springs has been pleading with commissioners for the same authority.
When catastrophes call, every second counts.
"If we can lower that response time, it's a better outcome for the patient," said Deputy Chief Greg DeWitt, of Bonita Springs Fire & Rescue
It's why the department is fighting for its own ambulance service. DeWitt says his crews wait an average of two to two-and-a-half minutes for Lee County EMS to arrive. Sometimes longer.
"[We] waited for the ambulance for approximately 12 minutes for him to be transported to the hospital," explained DeWitt.
That was last Tuesday, when a man walked into the fire department suffering from a heart attack.
"And it would have at least at the very minimum lessened the response time by 10 minutes," added DeWitt.
DeWitt says the start up cost to add ambulance transport ranges from $400,000 to $600,000. The department would lease three full-time ambulances and buy equipment such as a stretcher and heart monitor.
"To the taxpayers, they're not going to see any millage increase, any tax increase whatsoever for this service," emphasized DeWitt.
The fire department's budget would cover the purchases. But to keep the service going, the approximate $1 million in billing fees from Bonita Springs emergency calls would go to them, instead of the county.
"Over the past three to four years, that's what's been collected in the Bonita Springs area," said DeWitt.
In May 2010 their mission to get their own ambulance services began. Since then, it's been stuck in the hands of county commissioners, who keep delaying the vote.
"Basically, we're just tired of waiting," added DeWitt. "We want our day in court, we want our yes or no answer."
The fight for ambulance services will pick up again at the Lee County commission meeting on March 26.