Commission creates EMS department

The Leon County Commission unanimously voted early February to create its own emergency medical services department and contract with the city to provide dispatch services, advanced life support and transport services.

Joe Sharpe, director of health and human services for Leon County, said the new plan would allow the Tallahassee Fire Department to provide patients with Advanced Life Support.

Currently, only Tallahassee Memorial Hospital paramedics are allowed to provide ALS, even if the fire department’s paramedics arrive at an emergency scene first.

ALS involves life saving techniques from paramedics and using machines such as a defibrillator–a device used to start the heart–to keep patients alive, according to

Basic life support, which only TFD is authorized to use, includes basic CPR.

Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, which has been providing EMS for the last 30 years, announced September that it would no longer run the ambulance service or Life Flight, citing an estimated $1.6 million annual loss.

TMH initially planned to cease operating the services as of June 30, but extended that time until Sept. 30 by request of the county commission.

According to Sharpe, who served on the staff of the EMS advisory board established by the county commission, the board held a workshop to determine what to do about providing EMS.

The board decided that they wanted to create a county EMS service that will contract with the city.

If the city approves the plan, the TFD will provide EMS countywide and expand its employee roster to include paramedics now working at TMH.

Although the city commissioners have yet to formally discuss and vote on the issue, at least one commissioner thinks it is something to think about.

“I think that if the firefighters are the way to go, I certainly want us to look at it very closely,” said seat 5 City Commissioner Allan Katz.

Capt. Nancy Herndon of the Tallahassee Fire Department said the fire department was “ecstatic.”

“We are so pleased to be charged with this responsibility,” she said. “Even though the service at TMH is good, we think we can provide better service to the community.”

Katz, however, said he wants the public to be aware that the county’s suggestion will cost an estimated $800,000.

Herndon said the new venture would definitely be an asset to the community.

“Our families live here, and we want the best for our families.”

Crystal Lewis can be reached at