Sumter County commissioners voted Tuesday night to eliminate a $1.2 million annual subsidy for American Medical Response (AMR), which provides ambulance services.
Striking the subsidy was part of an amendment to the AMR contract that transfers emergency medical dispatching to the county. Sumter County ambulances have been operated for the past decade by the private companies Rural Metro and AMR. The amendment takes effect Oct. 1.
AMR, part of a large national company called Global Medical Response, came under fire this year for long response delays of up to an hour or more on some calls. The company said the COVID-19 pandemic caused severe staffing shortages. AMR’s contract expires Oct. 1, 2022.
The amendment also:
- Allows a five-minute grace period for ambulance arrivals if fire department units arrive first. The contract requires 90 percent of ambulance arrivals within 10 units of dispatch in urbanized areas and longer times for rural and wilderness areas.
- Limits to 30 percent the number of basic life support ambulances with emergency medical technicians while the other 70 percent must be staffed by advanced life support paramedics.
- Redefines and sets new time parameters for Baker Act responses. Florida’s Baker Act allows a person deemed a threat to others to be committed to a psychiatric facility.
- Permits exemptions from AMR meeting its response time standards including excessive delays at the hospital, severe weather, inaccurate information from the dispatchers and train or traffic blockages.
Commissioner Oren Miller said the complicated amendment should not be rushed, but should be discussed at a workshop. But commissioners approved it by a 4-1 vote.
Villages Fire Chief Edmund Cain is scheduled to present a plan for an independent special fire district to the ad hoc committee on Aug. 4. The district would not be subject to county oversight and would have authority to levy taxes and impact fees.
Commissioners agreed at the meeting with an assessment by County Administrator Bradley Arnold that the special district is beyond the scope of the committee because it would involve financial and governance issues.
“It is my opinion that this is a governance issue,” said County Chairman Garry Breeden. “I think they need to stay on course.”
During the public forum portion of the meeting, David Bussone, who chairs the committee, disagreed and said he believes the special district is relevant to the committee’s charge because it involves structural issues.
After the meeting, Bussone said he still planned to have Cain make his presentation, but that he would confer with County Attorney Jennifer Rey.