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Ormond Beach Observer Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2018 2 weeks ago

Was Heather Post's statement over lack of ambulances available to respond 'reckless'?

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Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post brought the county's EMS up for discussion. Some Council members disagreed with what she said.
by: Jarleene Almenas News Editor

When Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post recently faced a medical emergency, she chose to have her husband drive her to the hospital instead of calling an ambulance.

Looking back now, after spending four days in the ICU due to a blood clot, Post said she made the right decision. She said she only had a 20-minute window in which doctors could administer her with some medicine to prevent damage. Had she called for an ambulance, Post worries she wouldn't have met that time restriction.

“I might not be here today had I called for an ambulance," Post said.

At the Sept. 4 County Council meeting, Post brought up the county's EMS services for discussion, having met with the department's director and various employees about the issue. She told her fellow County Council members that Volusia's EMS is operating at a "scary" staffing level and that ambulances are not available to respond to calls on a regular basis.

It is a statement that County Council Chair Ed Kelley called "reckless." 

“What is reckless is the complete lack of oversight and accountability and the relentless quest to maintain a status quo at the expense of the safety of the citizens of Volusia County," Post said.

Jason Lademann, president of the Volusia County EMS union, wrote in an email to the Ormond Beach Observer that the County measures response times, but isn't held to meet any particular standard. However, he said meeting the national 8 minute and 59 second standard would require enough staffed ambulances.

“What is reckless is the complete lack of oversight and accountability and the relentless quest to maintain a status quo at the expense of the safety of the citizens of Volusia County."

Heather Post, Volusia County Councilwoman for District 4

"Almost every day, there are multiple occasions where every staffed ambulance is on a call, leaving no ambulances available," Lademann wrote. "We need more ambulances staffed to ensure that a minimum number of ambulances are always available for the next 911 call. "

Interim County Manager George Recktenwald said at the County Council meeting that there is a "general consensus" that Volusia County's EMS needs to improve. He said four more employees and two ambulances will be added to the department.

Lademann said EMS needs much more than four more employees, especially considering 18 ambulances are staffed daily on an average basis. In contrast, Lademann said there is an average daily staffing of 63 fire trucks across all of Volusia County.

Kelley would later again call Post's statement "reckless" and "disingenuous" on the Marc Bernier Show on Sept. 7. He told Bernier on air that if a critical situation arises, and all ambulances are attending to calls, those responding to non-emergency transports could reroute and take care of the most urgent call. 

The critical point is to have someone on-scene that can respond with advanced life support systems, or ALS. Bernier asked Kelley if the County, which claims an average response time of seven-minute 30 seconds according to Post, counts the response time from the time the call comes in or from the time an ambulance is dispatched. 

Bernier told Kelley on his show that a source had told him that was how the County was calculating response times. Kelley said if that is what is happening, then it was wrong.

“If they’re doing that, somebody needs to be held accountable," Kelley said to Bernier. "You got my word on that.”

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