ORLANDO, Fla. --
The city of Orlando voted Monday to start taking over ambulance services from Rural Metro. Fire Chief John Miller said a study shows the city can make between six and eight million dollars, but there are concerns over whether the fire department can handle the demand for service.
Orlando firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics are already the first to respond when you need medical attention. Now they will finish the job and take you to the hospital instead of waiting for Rural Metro. It's part of a 20-month trial to see if the city can handle running the service on its own.
"If we can draw some income with the number of firefighters that we already have, that's a net positive for us," Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said.
WFTV was told a study shows the city could generate at least $6 million a year by charging patients a flat fee. But Rural Metro is an established, nationwide provider and its paramedics transport about 24,000 patients a year in Orlando.
"We have the staffing, have the rescuers, have the equipment, just a matter of transitioning," Miller said.
The fire department already has 11 ambulance units stocked with supplies and stretchers, but the city will have to take out a $1 million loan to buy three more just to get that trial run started in February.
"We have to respond anyway so we are on the site, and we aren't paid for that response," Mayor Dyer said.
The fire chief said the city would certainly have to invest in much more equipment if it decides to completely take over the service after the trial-run; more paramedics and EMTs would have to be hired.
In the meantime, the money being generated will also help retain 46 firefighters, who only have a job now because of a federal stimulus grant. The city expects to make $6 million a year by charging patients a flat fee that will be determined in the coming weeks.