PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — A possible change in Panama City will be felt across the county as discussions of the fire department stopping their service to EMS calls continues.
“We were really shocked because that’s something every fire department across the united states has,” said Panama City Beach Fire Chief Larry Couch.
The decision in one city is impacting other cities around it. Couch said, “for this area, all of the emergency services struggle because of budgetary restraints and the call volume that we run but we all have to stick together.”
Couch says at least 60% of their calls are medical in nature and even though they may be first on the scene, the partnership with Bay County Emergency Services is vital. “We run ALS non-transport. We have paramedics that have everything that an ambulance has, we just don’t transport.”
As Bay County will now have to spread more resources to Panama City, Couch says he’s worried about the effect it will have on the response time in the surrounding cities. “Bay County is still going to respond to Panama City as they would anyway but it’s going to take a little more effort on their part moving those resources around.”
He says this longer response times could have catastrophic results. “Time when it comes to medical is everything.”
When asked if Chief Couch would ever consider suspending their EMS services, he said “Absolutely not. “We pride our self in helping our community in any aspect of public safety that we can. I mean that’s part of our duty. That’s part of our job to help the citizens and visitors.”
Couch says he knows this decision was not made by the Panama City Fire Department or Firefighters and hopes the city will rethink the decision in the future.