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February 26, 2014

County to offer non-emergency medical transport

Live Oak —

The Suwannee County Board of County Commissioners gave the nod to Public Safety Director James Sommers to begin non-emergency transport services within the county. The service is now available for county residents by way of county resources.

“Suwannee County Fire Rescue is happy to announce that we will start providing inter-facility transfers for the citizens of our county again,” Sommers said.

The county did non-emergency transporting in the eighties before it was phased out.

Also at the Suwannee County Board of County Commissioners meeting Feb. 18, the board discussed giving pay raises to a majority of the employees who serve under the board of commissioners. There were four government entities, SCFR being one, that did not have the funds in their budget to afford raises. 

However, Sommers said SCFR did have funds available, approximately $50,000, budgeted for the construction of the McAlpin Fire Station headquarters that could be used if the money could be replenished.

Sommers then told the board with the recent arrival of a new ambulance, it freed one up that is currently being used as a back-up and it can be utilized for non-emergency medical transport.

“I’m willing to give up the $50,000 if I can start the transport plan because I know I can replenish that revenue within this year,” Sommers said. “If I’ve got that resource to replenish that budget to continue on our process (of constructing McAplin Fire Station headquarters), I’m fine with that.”

Since the matter had been previously discussed during the budget workshops, the board agreed unanimously to move forward with the service.

“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” Sommers said. “Other counties all over the state of Florida use inter-facility transfers as a way to fund their budgetary means.”

He continued, “County-based agencies such as Baker, Alachua, Citrus and Hamilton counties currently provide these types of services as part of their EMS service in order to help fund their budgets.”

Sommers also added Suwannee County provided these same services in the 1980s.

According to Sommers, the normal operations of the county’s emergency department includes six ambulances ready for 911 emergency response, and two for backup, totaling eight trucks. Through grant funding during the 2013-14 fiscal budget year, SCFR was able to purchase a new ambulance, leaving the county with three backups and a truck to spare.

The additional back-up truck, a 2012 Frazer which was taken offline from emergency services, will now be used for non-emergency transport services.

Sommers said he intends to use his current part-time employees without benefit packages.

“By using existing equipment and staff we are able to begin to provide the services without affecting current services provided,” Sommers said. “The people benefit from this in many ways as well as our county.”

In addition to supplementing the funds for employee raises, Sommers said by providing this service, it will help by offsetting costs of new modern medical equipment, funds for advanced training, and the option to use funds for other programs or state of emergency situations such as floods.

“We will continue to look for different ways to keep up with the evolving demands of our citizens to ensure that they will never have the burden to experience a lack of emergency care, and that they are being served by the most highly trained and confident personnel,” Sommers said.

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