Union: Volusia County EMS understaffed to point of significant delays for emergency services

DELAND, Fla. — A spokesperson for Volusia County’s emergency services union says there are several times a day where there are more emergency calls than there are county ambulances to respond to them.

That status, called “Level Zero,” is potentially a ticking time bomb, with diminishing ranks limiting officials ability to respond to the close-to-80,000 calls a year, union officials said.

In a letter obtained by Channel 9, officials with the EMS union warned the county council of longer wait times due to a lack of EMS personnel.

“It has now become normal to be at a patient’s side for 15, 30 and even 40 minutes or more, waiting for an ambulance to arrive,” the letter said.

Member of the union sent that letter in Sept. 2016—and union officials said little has changed since then.

“And when our closest available ambulance is 10, 15 or 20 miles away, as paramedics, the odds are already against us,” said Jason Lademann, president of the Volusia County EMS union.

Volusia County EMS is the primary medical transport provider in the county.

But one of five cities in the county may be called on to send a unit if the county cannot go.

Union officials said that’s becoming less of a contingency response and more of the norm because the county ambulances are tied up on other calls.

“We are seeing ambulances having to travel extended distances to get to emergencies,” said Lademann.

The county responded to emergency calls in the city in preferred time in less than nine minutes 80 percent of the time in 2014.

Last year, it hit that mark only 75 percent of the time.

It made it out to calls in rural areas in less than 12 minutes only 52 percent of the time in 2014—which slumped down to 49 percent of the time last year.

County manager Jim Dinneen declined to comment during a public meeting.