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    Post Paramedics Wanted!--Pasco County Florida

    TAMPA TRIBUNE

    County Seeks To Lure More Paramedics

    By CANDACE J. SAMOLINSKI csamolinski@tampatrib.com
    Published: Apr 27, 2003


    LAND O' LAKES - Pasco County has a history of serving as a training ground for emergency personnel, who move on after a few years for better pay.
    That's presented a challenge in trying to beef up emergency services, said Pasco Fire Chief Tony Lopinto. The most critical shortage has been in paramedics, and it is evident in the overtime budget.

    The county estimates spending more than $718,000 on overtime pay for rescue personnel this fiscal year. The majority is due to a lack of paramedics, said Assistant Chief Allan McCray, and more than $486,500 has been spent.

    Competition forced county administrators to revisit hiring standards this year, and to relax a requirement that paramedics be cross-trained as firefighters. The new guidelines expanded the job pool.

    So far, the county has hired 12 paramedics, Lopinto said. Eleven aren't certified but must be within 2 1/2 years.

    ``That allows them to take advantage of the tuition reimbursement program,'' Lopinto said. ``These paramedics, for the most part, have experience. A lot of them came from Pinellas County.''

    The future of emergency medical care depends upon hiring more paramedics, Lopinto said. The county plans to build several more fire stations and to equip fire engines with advanced life support systems. Paramedics are needed to operate the advanced equipment.

    ``If we don't hire enough paramedics, we will be overworking the ones we have,'' he said. ``There is no substitute for a paramedic. If they're fatigued, everyone suffers.''

    The county will be giving preferential treatment to applicants certified as paramedics, Lopinto said.

    Once hired, a paramedic doesn't automatically begin working, Assistant Chief Chris Alland said. There is a rigorous training program, followed by supervised shifts and a final test.

    The county is encouraging current employees to become paramedics, Alland said. One of the requirements for paramedic school is completing a medical terminology class. A county-sponsored class was held recently.

    By year's end, the hope is several EMTs will be enrolled at Pasco-Hernando Community College.

    ``By virtue of hiring those 12 and with people coming out of school, we hope to keep up with demands,'' Lopinto said.


    Reporter Candace J. Samolinski can be reached at (813) 948-4215.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  2. #2
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    Post Follow Up

    TAMPA TRIBUNE

    Responding To An Emergency
    By CANDACE J. SAMOLINSKI csamolinski@tampatrib.com
    Published: Apr 27, 2003


    HOLIDAY - As the sun sets on the Gulf of Mexico, the busiest part of the day is about to begin for personnel at Pasco County Fire Station No. 12.
    Just steps from U.S. 19, paramedics and firefighters assigned here are among the busiest in the county, handling more than 35,000 calls last year.

    This station nearly always has two paramedics on duty. It's a rarity in a county where paramedics long have been scarce, but Pasco Fire Chief Tony Lopinto says he's out to change that.

    The shortage has put pressure on existing paramedics and forced emergency medical technicians, whose training isn't as advanced as that of paramedics, to perform jobs they may not be exposed to elsewhere. Employees take a team approach to helping the sick and injured.

    ``Our EMTs here are some of the best you'll find,'' said Lt. Duncan Hitchcock, one of two paramedics on a 24-hour shift. ``We require them to run [intravenous lines]. Their training starts their very first day on the job.''

    Still, there are services EMTs can't provide, such as inserting a tube to help a patient breathe or giving life- saving medications. That's where paramedics become crucial, often working in tandem at crash scenes involving multiple patients in need of immediate care.

    ``We like the challenge,'' said Rob Diaz, a paramedic who has worked in Pasco two years. ``We're allowed to do more on the scene. Our paramedics get to function without having to call for approval on everything.''

    Pasco paramedics don't have to get authorization from the county medical director before giving patients needed medications, unlike their counterparts in Pinellas County.

    Although car crashes are common in Pasco, Hitchcock said the majority of calls stem from individual medical conditions.

    ``Pasco County is the broken hip and heart attack capital of America,'' he said.

    Emergency personnel have to be ready at a moment's notice, Hitchcock said. Shifts begin at 7 a.m. and last 24 hours. Employees then have two days off and most work other jobs in the health care field.

    On this day, the five-man crew buzzed with nervous energy, eager for a call. They didn't have to wait long. The first tones rang out before noon.

    Seconds later, driver-engineer Kris Johns sounded the horn, and a fire engine lumbered out of the station, parting a sea of vehicles on Mile Stretch Road. Hitchcock rode shotgun and called out directions while he studied a map. The ambulance followed, also maneuvering traffic on the way to an 86-year-old man, who was having trouble breathing.

    Anxious neighbors and relatives waited outside. Paramedics Diaz and Hitchcock took the lead, with help from Johns and EMTs Victor Scheeren and Vic Brown.

    Knowing two paramedics were helping her neighbor was a comfort to Lucy James, who was delighted to hear the county is adding more of the highlytrained professionals.

    ``You have so many older people here. It's scary sometimes,'' she said. ``I would be willing to pay more taxes or whatever. What's a human life worth?''

    By daylight's end, the crew had helped half a dozen residents.

    At 8 p.m., they found themselves on familiar ground.

    Traffic came to a standstill on U.S. 19, just west of the station, when a motorcyclist collided with a tow-truck. The man received a broken leg and was flown to Bayfront Medical Center for treatment. Meanwhile, his friend tried to negotiate with paramedics to take the man's motorcycle to the hospital, too.

    Keeping a sense of humor is part of the job, Johns said. This was his night to cook dinner. It was on the table when the motorcyclist call came in. The group returned to cold pork chops and macaroni and cheese. ``That's what microwaves are for,'' he said.


    Reporter Candace J. Samolinski can be reached at (813) 948-4215.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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