Rural Manatee County gets own ambulance

PARRISH, FL  (WFLA) - Manatee County ambulances have a hard time getting to rural areas in the eastern end of the county. Response times are often far higher than the recommended average so county officials are bringing in a new ambulance to solve the problem.

National guidelines recommend that ambulances should have an 8 minute response time. But Manatee county paramedics sometimes take around 20 minutes to get to calls in the Parrish area. The area is remote, and the nearest ambulances are miles away in Ellenton.

Manatee County Public Safety Director Bob Smith said, "It gets a little bit challenging to get somebody there quick enough to respond to an incident in a timely fashion."

So the county has purchased a new ambulance to be placed in Parrish. The new unit will arrive in April and will cost $400,000. The idea is to drastically cut those response times and possibly save lives.

Parrish resident Teresa Giles owns PJ's sandwich shop. The restaurant has been in the family for 31 years. She's seen the small town slowly grow over the years, but one thing hasn't changed- the long ambulance response times.

Giles said, "You can wait a long time for an ambulance if you've got an emergency, and you shouldn't have to."

She added, "If you have an emergency, you need them now, not 10 or 15 minutes down the road. Now."

Local residents are excited about the new ambulance service. Bill Kay has lived in Parrish for 16 years. He lives in a retirement community and often sees emergency crews coming into his neighborhood.

Kay said, "Additional help would probably be a benefit to the community since the community is growing in leaps and bounds."

Thousands of new homes are being built in the Parrish area. In the past year alone, ambulance calls have increased by 12%, so a new unit has been a long time coming. Giles thinks it's better late than never.

She said, "We all pay our taxes so we should all have the same privilege as the guy in town. We don't have it out here, but I'm glad we're finally getting it because it's needed it for a long time."

The county will soon be hiring seven additional paramedics to staff the ambulance. The money for the new ambulance will partly come from EMS fees and impact fees from the new homes that are being built.

Officials are eager to reduce response times and help save lives.

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