JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Effective this year, some cash-strapped Duval County public high schools have opted out of contracting private ambulance services for high school football games.
The 11 high schools no longer using private services will still have a two-member crew of paramedics on the field in case of an injury, but will no longer have an ambulance ready for transport at the game.
"The biggest risk is time each student has a specific amount of time when the injury occurs to get them to the proper location, waiting for an ambulance is taken away from that golden hour for the injury," said Dwayne Perkins, Chief of Operations, Liberty Ambulance Services.
Instead of schools paying $450 a game to have an ambulance with paramedics on-scene, schools can save $100 by contracting Jacksonville Fire and Rescue to have two paramedics on the bench.
But private ambulance companies like Liberty Ambulance Service say schools need more equipment to respond to sports-related injuries.
"All of our ambulances that we sent to football games are all advanced support ambulances most of the paramedics on board are critical care paramedics they have the capability of running ventilators to keep the patient alive if its catastrophic," Perkins said.
The school system says each school decides what fits best for them, but medical professionals will always be on the field either way.
Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program Executive Director Robert Sefcik says in a statement..."In an effort to best protect our football athletes, our schools have made it a priority to have emergency resources available on-site at our football venues."
While JFRD could be at a game in minutes, concerns are that minutes may not be enough. That was the case for J.T. Townsend, a football player for private school Episcopal High, who almost didn't make it when he was injured and paralyzed during a game in 2004.
"With my experience, after I got hurt we had a dummy ambulance on the sidelines, so they couldn't transport me to the hospital and we had to wait for a regular ambulance to come, but by the grace of God there were doctors on the stands that were able to revive me on the field," says JT Townsend, a former football player.
Six high schools are still contracting private ambulance services for their games.
Paxon is one of them and their principal says he thought it was better to be safe. Liberty Ambulance services Duval County high school football games.
The owner says the company has worked 84 games since the season started this year and have already made about seven transports for injured athletes.
First Coast News