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Friday, Jun 22, 2018
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Pinellas may station ambulances closer to prep football games

CLEARWATER — Ambulances may soon be parking close to Pinellas County high school football stadiums on games nights in case paramedics need to respond to on-field medical emergencies.

That recommendation comes out of a memorandum being delivered to Pinellas County School Board members today that outlines the school district's protocol for treating injuries at high school football games and ways it could improve.

The memorandum is a response to a concussion sustained last month by 15-year-old Largo High School football player Taj Taylor, who was knocked out cold for 10 minutes during a game against Dunedin High School. Taylor laid motionless on the field while his mother and teammates waited about five minutes for an ambulance to arrive.

That sparked concerned parents to reopen the debate on why the school district does not station an ambulance and paramedics or emergency medical technicians at each game. That was common until 2004, when the school district eliminated ambulances and paramedics on the sidelines because of the cost.

The school district's director of physical education, Nick Grasso, and a group of principals, students and health officials from local hospitals reviewed the school district's current policy and found that it already does “an awful lot” to protect all student-athletes, Superintendent Michael Grego said.

There aren't any ambulances or paramedics on the sidelines during any Pinellas home football games; but, in some cases, ambulance crews and fire trucks staffed by firefighter-paramedics park nearby the stadiums on game nights, according to an email from Craig Hare, the EMS division manager for Pinellas County. County officials are researching where that happens already and will talk with fire chiefs throughout Pinellas to see if similar service can be provided near other high schools, Hare said in his email.

Paramedics and firefighters wouldn't park on school property while providing so-called “nondedicated standby” service because doing so might delay them in responding to other calls, Hare said in his email.

Stationing ambulances and fire trucks near schools on game nights could be done at no cost to the school district or the county, according to Hare's email.

Doing so likely would significantly cut response times. As it is, the countywide average response time for an ambulance is four and a half minutes, the email says.

Ambulances used to be stationed on the sidelines at every junior varsity and varsity football game, as is still the case in Hillsborough County; but that practice was done away with in 2004, saving the Pinellas County school district about $40,000 a year.

Instead, that money was used to hire athletic trainers and medical personnel from four different area health care providers who attend every practice and game for every high school sport. The trainers are available six days a week and serve about 3,360 students.

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