Sans Permit from Manatee County, FL, Medics Can't Provide ALS Care

May 22, 2024
Duette Fire Rescue officials say it's frustrating to have trained personnel at the patient's side and not be able to use their life-saving skills.

May 22—In rural Duette, a resident died after suffering a heart attack and waiting 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive in March, according to the area's fire chief.

Duette Fire Chief Rocky Parker wants Manatee County commissioners to approve a permit that allows volunteer paramedics to offer advanced life support services. That includes giving patients cardiac drugs, intravenous fluids or electric shocks to restart their hearts.

According to Parker, Duette Fire Rescue has seven paramedic firefighters with the skills necessary to provide advanced life support, but without a permit from Manatee County Government, they are not allowed to administer that care.

"Would it have made a difference?" Parker said. "Nobody can say that, but I can say that when we were on the scene within six minutes, we could have begun advanced care right away."

During a recent Manatee County Commission meeting, Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge said some residents have less access to emergency services, which is one downside to living "out in the country." Van Ostenbridge suggested that the Duette Fire Rescue District should explore a merger with the Parrish Fire District.

"When you have smaller districts, they tend to be more susceptible to these challenges," Van Ostenbridge said. "When you have larger districts, they tend to be more resilient."

Duette Fire Rescue seeks advanced care permit

Commissioner George Kruse argued that the merger between the Myakka City Fire Control District and the East Manatee Fire Rescue District has been successful.

"I know Myakka has better service as a result of a merger that maybe they didn't want to have," Kruse said. "You kind of lose the source of pride of having a Myakka Fire, but it's for the best interest of the citizens out there, cost-wise and safety-wise."

While Van Ostenbridge claimed that Duette Fire Rescue failed to meet the minimum requirements because it does not have ALS-certified paramedics on duty at all times, the agency posted on Facebook that county officials were "looking for anything they could to deny" the permit.

Meshia Richardson-Judd, 66, who has lived in Duette for six years, questioned why the county commissioners did not take an important step to cut emergency response times to rural parts of the county.

Overlooking rural needs?

"Why should I have to sit and wait?" Richardson-Judd said. "None of us should have to sit and wait."

She criticized the county commissioners for overlooking the needs of rural residents.

"Don't make us second-class citizens," Richardson-Judd said. "We choose to live out here. It doesn't mean that it's a given that we won't get services we might need in a more populated area of Manatee County."

Parker is frustrated that heart attack patients face long wait times for an ambulance. He compared it to being locked in a room for 30 minutes with crushing chest pain. His goal is to treat those patients as soon as possible.

"They are right about one thing, in a rural area, we should expect lesser service," Parker said. "But that's the thing, we're not asking for money. We're not asking for resources. We're asking to take care of ourselves."

Parker wants to do more to help the residents who count on him.

"I live here," Parker said. "I know these people. It's a small, rural community. We're standing there trying to help people that we know, that look to us for help."


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