Florala looking to bridge gap

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 17, 2014

After the closure of Florala Memorial Hospital, city leaders are reaching out to the emergency response community to help provide more services to residents.

Mayor Robert Williamson said he hopes that “to bridge the gap” that the Florala EMS will get a paramedic on staff and asked Florala EMS manager James York to explore that option.

Currently the Florala EMS, a private company, has 12 people on staff – three ambulance drivers and nine EMTs.

“But the thing about having a paramedic on staff, is that it is very expensive,” York said. “You have to have a license for ambulance service in the county. With that license, an ambulance service can work all over the county – like Advanced EMS.

“Now, we have a mutual aid agreement with Advanced, and they back us up on our serious runs – anything life threatening – and they come and get them and get the to the closets hospital,” he said. “What we’d like to do is work out an agreement with them to get a paramedic here on staff, for a very short time.”

Since the closure of the hospital, there is no emergent care for Florala residents. For emergency treatment, resident must travel to Andalusia Regional, Mizell Memorial or a hospital in Defuniak Springs or Crestview, Fla.

“From what I know, I think that the hospital will never reopen as a full-blown hospital,” York said of FMH. “I think there is a plan in the works that will benefit the people of Florala, but in the meantime, we have to do what we can to get help here now.”

York said the EMS unit makes between 25 and 30 runs a month.

“A few years ago, that was 75 to 125 or more,” he said. “The main problem is that Florala is so small. WE do make so few runs that we can’t justify a full-blown advanced unit, which would make us the same level as Advanced EMS. It’s just too expensive.”

However, York said he is in negotiations to bring that level of experience to Florala.

“We’re going to see what we can work out,” he said of the talks. “In the meantime, we do have a helicopter service out of Crestview, Life Heart Air Ambulance, that has agreed to help.”

York said the paramedic and sometimes doctor staffed air units can arrive in Florala in less than four minutes.

“Thankfully, we haven’t had to call on them yet, but we will before time is out. It’s just going to happen,” he said.