CITRUS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Citrus County Commissioners voted 3-2 today to assume control of EMS service in the county.
Nature Coast EMS currently provides the service, but has been plagued with staffing issues for the past two months. The agency is the lowest paying EMS provider in the Tampa Bay area, and had a plan to increase pay for first responders, but needed the county’s financial backing.
Nature Coast EMS is a non-profit agency that handles the county’s ambulance service. It began having staffing issues in July, when other EMS providers in neighboring counties bumped up salaries. Since then 20-first responders have turned in their resignations.
Eric Johnson was one of them, he told 8 On Your Side the staffing shortages were putting citizens at risk with response times increasing.
“Oh, they most definitely will,” said Johnson. “It’s a mathematical surety. There’s no way around it. “
Chief Scott Baxter went before county commissioners, asking for $1.6 million in order to give employees raises to keep them on board.
County Commissioner Ron Kitchen praised Baxter on the improvements the new administration had made at Nature Coast, but questioned whether giving the organization more money was the proper course of action.
“What comes down to is trust. You came to us last year and said help us out with this, and this will never happen again, we went to the citizens. We’re going to help them out with this. It will never happen again,” said Kitchen. “Not only did it happen again, but it came as a surprise. “
County leaders estimate it will cost in the neighborhood of $2.6 million for the county to operate EMS.