CLEARWATER – The Clearwater City Council on Nov. 1 gave its unanimous support to a resolution joining Largo and a few other Pinellas cities in supporting the concept of priority dispatch for 911 calls, such as “sick persons” and falls.
Councilmember Doreen Hock-DiPolito was absent.
Currently, Clearwater Fire Rescue paramedics respond to calls until a Sunstar ambulance arrives to transport the victim to a hospital. Under the priority dispatch proposal, Clearwater firefighters would not respond to such calls if a Sunstar ambulance would be available within 15 minutes.
“I support the use of nationally recognized protocols to prioritize the dispatch of the appropriate type and number of units to calls for medical assistance,” Largo Mayor Patricia Gerard wrote in a July 27 letter to the County Commission.
“It’s pretty much the non-life-threatening situations they’re trying to change,” Assistant Chief Todd Connors, head of Emergency Medical Services for Clearwater Fire Rescue, told the council at the Nov. 1 meeting.
The county favors the priority dispatch concept, which is used by more than 3,000 fire departments nationwide, but is studying it further because of “pushback” from smaller Pinellas cities that fear priority dispatch will weaken EMS protection for their residents, City Manager Bill Horne told the council.
“I think that all of us can agree that priority dispatch makes sense,” Mayor George Cretekos said.
But he added that perhaps Clearwater should also study it further. Councilmember Bill Jonson replied that no further study is needed.
“The fire chief and myself are in agreement with this priority dispatch concept being implemented,” Connor told the council.
“It makes 100 percent total sense to me,” Councilmember Jay Polglaze agreed.
At the suggestion of Vice-Mayor Paul Gibson, the word “unanimous” was added to the resolution to give it more weight with the county.”