County not hen-friendly
I just thought that your readers might need a little laugh for the New Year. We purchased our home in a rural part of Sebring so that our children could have the experience of farming and raising small livestock for the 4-H. To get them started, we got four chicks from a local feed store. This was to teach them responsibility of taking care of animals, reaping the rewards of harvesting eggs and using the waste for fertilizer in the garden.
Ironically, this is not allowed outside of the city limits. Yes, that's right; we have to live within the city limits to raise chickens. The code enforcement officer informed us that the county commissioners do not allow egg laying hens in rural parts of Highlands County. Everybody we talk to is like, "What's wrong with that picture?" or "You're kidding me, right?" No, it's true I tell them.
Up until now I have tried to keep quiet on all the controversy concerning privatization of EMS on all the social media sites, but after the blatantly biased article in Friday's Highlands Today, I just had to speak up.
There are three other ambulance services operating in Highlands County: West Coast, AMR and Positive Medical - all non-emergency medical transport. AMR does standby for the cardiac catheterization lab at Florida Hospital Heartland and covers Sebring International Raceway, as does HCEMS and Positive. But if you call 911, you will get a Highlands County EMS ambulance just as you have 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year since 1975.
When I started with the service in 1986, we were running approximately 6,000 calls a year with six ambulances. In 2013 we responded to more than 14,000 calls with 8 ambulances, covering more than 1,100 square miles and still arrived at your house in less than 8 minutes average, well under the 15 minutes required by the state for a rural county. We have grown with the people, hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities of the county, not so much in size but in experience, level and scope of care, working hand-in-hand with the local hospitals and air transport services to improve the care and survivability of our citizens.
HCEMS has three employees with over 30 years with the service; more than one-third of the service has 10 to 25-plus years of service. Your hometown people serving hometown people and visitors alike. Loyalty and experience. HCEMS covers all high school football games, youth football, high school wrestling tournaments, local festivals, running events and the Highlands County Fair, all without additional cost to the county taxpayers. Will you get that with a private service?
Another subject not addressed, to my knowledge, suppose in a year or two, the private service decides its not making enough profit and withdraws its service, like a large private service did recently leaving several counties in seven states without an ambulance service, or sell its contract to another party, takes the money, says adios and leaves town, leaving the county with no control whatsoever.
I'm just asking for everyone to look at the big picture, not just at the money line. Privatization will not lower your taxes. It will not save you money. But will your service be the same?