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Emergency Medical Services (EMS) FAQs

Venice City Council voted April 23, 2019, to give notice to Sarasota County that the City intends to terminate the interlocal agreement with the County for the provision of Emergency Medical Services (EMS). The interlocal agreement specifies that termination may occur one year from the date of notification.  
 
Why did the City of Venice want to assume primary responsibility for EMS?

Based on consultant analysis and staff research, the City determined that it can provide a high level of critical response service and maintain local control with no increase in cost to residents. 
 
What are the specific benefits of the City assuming primary responsibility for EMS?

 With the City managing EMS, the entire Fire Department service is under the leadership of one chief. This facilitates the scheduling of personnel, allows for cross training, enhances internal communication, and otherwise unifies the first responder function. 
 
Are there specific EMS operational benefits to the City managing the rescue service?

The most significant operational benefit of the City operating EMS is an upgrading of the first responder capability. Under the current model, the County-operated rescue vehicles are staffed with one paramedic and one Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). The supporting Fire Department engine companies are staffed with two EMTs. Under the Venice plan, both the rescue vehicles and the supporting engine companies will be staffed with paramedics. The ultimate plan is to staff the engine companies and rescue vehicles with all paramedic professionals. 
 
Why are paramedics preferred over EMTs?

EMTs are trained to provide basic life support (BLS) services at a rescue scene. Paramedics are more highly trained and certified to provide a broad array of advanced life support (ALS) services.  
 
Why do fire engine companies respond to rescue calls?

Certain rescue calls, especially critical incidents, require more than two responders to provide the necessary response and care. Rescue units are staffed with two first responders. The engine company responds when the rescue call anticipates a need for more than two responders.  
 
How are revenues from the rescue service collected and distributed?

The City authorizes Sarasota County the right to assess and collect from property owners an ad valorem property tax of .66 mills (County’s EMS Municipal Services Taxing Unit, or MSTU) for support of the County rescue services provided in Venice. Also, the rescue service charges an ambulance transport fee for each patient transported to a medical facility. The collective revenue approximates $4 million annually. The revenues are collected and retained by the County. 
 
Do the rescue fees subsidize the Venice engine companies responding to rescue calls?

Support for the Venice engine companies comes from the City of Venice General Operating Budget. There is no outside subsidy to offset engine company rescue service. The City researched other ways to deliver the service; however, attempts to identify other revenue sources to subsidize expenses were unsuccessful. 
 
How are engine companies dispatched to rescue calls?

Based on the critical nature of the request from the caller for first responders, the County dispatch center determines when an engine company is needed to support the responding rescue unit. Historically, the engine companies in Venice are called to respond for approximately 42% of rescue calls. 
 
When Venice assumes primary responsibility for EMS, how will the economics (revenues and expenses) change?

Under the Venice model, all ambulance transport fees will go to the City. Additionally, the current ad valorem tax of .66 mills (MSTU) for county rescue service will be eliminated, and instead the equivalent amount will be added to the Venice general fund operating millage rate. In other words, there will be no change in the cost to City residents. 
 
What are the financial benefits of the City operating EMS?

The first benefit is that the total revenue from rescue calls will go to the City of Venice, thereby helping to subsidize the engine company response to rescue calls. Additionally, any revenues collected that exceed the operating cost of the service can be used for a number of Fire Department-related needs, including accelerate the pay down on the Fire Department unfunded pension liability, expand the fund for fire department vehicle depreciation, or create a building depreciation fund to maintain the newly planned Fire Station 1 near City Hall. 
 
Will service quality for rescue calls change when Venice assumes primary responsibility for EMS?

Sarasota County operates a County-wide service model. As such, the jurisdiction covered by rescue units assigned to Venice exceed the Venice City boundaries. Therefore, it is often the case that the nearest available rescue unit to a call for service is outside of City limits. With the Venice model, the primary jurisdiction to cover is within the Venice City boundaries. Therefore, the average rescue response time will be faster. By data analysis, the engine companies currently respond to Venice rescue an average of three minutes faster than County rescue units. This is attributable to the wider geographical area that the rescue units must cover. 
 
Can residents be assured that their “hospital of choice” option will continue once the City takes over?                               

The resource hospitals to which Venice Fire Department would transport would be the same as those that Sarasota County Fire Department transports to currently.       

Are there any other considerations in comparing the rescue service models?      

The second feature of service quality is the capacity of the first responding unit. In the Venice model, all responding units will be staffed with paramedics -- the highest level of training for first responders. Together with a faster response time, the service quality to Venice residents will be appreciably better. 
 

DEFINITION OF TERMS

Emergency Medical Service (EMS) - Refers to the treatment and transport of people in crisis health situations that may be life-threatening. Emergency medical support is applied in a wide variety of situations, from car accidents to drownings to medical events like a heart attack.

Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) - Performs interventions with the basic equipment typically found on an ambulance. Emergency Medical Technicians are a critical link between the scene of an emergency and the health-care system. Paramedic - An allied health professional whose primary focus is to provide advanced emergency medical care for critical and emergent patients who access the emergency medical system. This individual possesses the complex knowledge and skills necessary to provide patient care and transportation.                                         

Basic Life Support (BLS) - Is the foundation for saving lives after cardiac arrest. It is designed for health-care providers and trained first responders who provide care to patients in a wide variety of settings, and teaches both single-rescuer and team basic life support skills for application in pre-hospital and in-facility settings. 

Advanced Life Support (ALS) - Refers to the medical procedures for sustaining life including the advanced diagnosis and protocol-driven treatment of a patient in the field such as defibrillation, airway management, and administration of medications. Generally, ALS is performed by Emergency Medical Technicians/Paramedics and other qualified health professionals.         

Mill - The mill levy is the “tax rate” that is applied to the assessed value of a property. One mill is $1 per $1,000 of assessed value.           

Municipal Services Taxing Unit (MSTU) – A taxing district created by property owners in a defined geographical area who vote to levy a tax to support improvements to the area. 

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