CITRUS COUNTY — Nature Coast EMS oversees the ambulances and paramedics in Citrus County. But the firefighters union says staffing is at a critical point.
“Just over 200 times in the month of August Nature Coast EMS was at a status zero which means that there’s no ambulance available to respond to an emergency in our community," said Anthony Seguin, public information officer with the Professional Firefighters of Citrus County.
Nature Coast EMS says they’ve lost many of its paramedics to neighboring counties with higher pay.
They say COVID has also played a role.
“You are getting exposed to this virus that you are watching kill people. You are seeing the severity of their symptoms and you never know when it’s going to be you," said Nature Coast EMS battalion chief Dan Brady.
Nature Coast EMS trails all others in the Bay Area in starting salary. Now they are asking the Citrus County commission for more money to help increase pay by 40%.
“You can’t have a discount EMS service. And you look at all the neighboring counties. The EMTs and paramedics have had enough. They want to be paid properly," said Brady.
But the county commission is also looking at handing control of ambulance services over to the fire department.
“That’s what the firefighters of this county want is a system and a service that we don’t have to keep going back to this situation where we can advocate for the safety of our citizens and really provide them the level of service that they deserve," said Seguin.
The fire department does have its own paramedics that go on service calls. But they are not able to take patients to the hospital.
The County Commission could decide what to do at Tuesday’s meeting.