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Monday, May 16, 2022

Sumter County unlikely to meet October ambulance deadline

Sumter County is unlikely to meet an Oct. 1, 2022, deadline to transfer ambulance services to the county fire department and the transfer may not happen at all.

American Medical Response (AMR), a private provider that came under fire last year for slow response times, may continue to provide Sumter County ambulance service outside The Villages beyond the deadline.

Four months after commissioners voted to transfer the service to the two fire departments and not extend AMR’s contract, County Administrator Bradley Arnold will present three ambulance service options at a workshop meeting set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the county service center on Powell Road.

None of those options would meet the deadline because ambulance delivery is estimated to take 10 to 18 months.

The Villages Center Community Development District is moving ahead with plans to move ambulance services to The Villages Fire Department by Oct. 1. Last week, the district board approved a $3.385-million purchase of ambulances and equipment.

Outside The Villages, the first option would be to acquire ambulances and equipment, hire paramedics/emergency medical technicians and move ahead with the fire department transfer. A contingency plan with AMR would be needed if the transfer could not be done by Oct. 1.

The second option would be for the county to buy its own ambulances and let another provider operate them.

The third option would be to contract with a transport service such as AMR.

Arnold’s report includes details about equipment and staffing needs if the fire department takes over the service.

Sixty-three employees would be needed to cover nine ambulances across three shifts. Total cost for wages, benefits and training would be $5.1 million, according to the report.

A dozen ambulances would be purchased at a total cost of $3.3 million through the Florida Sheriff’s Cooperative Purchasing Program, but delivery is expected to take up to a year or more.

Ambulance providers, including fire departments, receive payment for transports from insurance companies and patients.

Sumter County also is receiving $25 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds. The final payment is expected in August.

Commissioners voted in September to move ambulance services to the Sumter County and Villages fire departments. The decision followed a recommendation by a study committee appointed after AMR was criticized last spring for poor response times.

In December, commissioners voted to extend AMR’s contract from Oct. 1 to the end of 2022 in case the service transfers did not occur by the deadline.

 

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