by Jan Palmer

I have been diligently trying to figure out the problem regarding unacceptable ambulance wait times for transport to a hospital after first responders have arrived on scene.  I’ve read lengthy and detailed articles and attended presentations and discussed it at length with people who are in the know and much more knowledgeable than I am, and was still having trouble understanding all the pieces involved and the options being proposed.  So, I have done some homework, and this is my attempt, on behalf of The VHA, to summarize the problem, explain where the delay is happening, what is being done, who is addressing the problem to come up with an acceptable solution, what is at stake, and how to influence the final decision.

WHO IS AFFECTED:  Residents of The Villages, specifically, plus, all of Sumter County.

WHAT EXACTLY IS THE PROBLEM:  It is first responders having to wait on the scene for an ambulance to arrive to transport someone to the hospital for further treatment.  The time it takes to respond to a call by the Villages Public Safety Department (more commonly known as the fire department) or Sumter County is satisfactory, so that part of the equation does not need to be “fixed”.  First responders from VPSD and Sumter County are arriving quickly, and are assessing the situation and beginning treatment in a timely manner, but the wait time for an ambulance to arrive for transport to a hospital is not acceptable.

  • The current wait times for an ambulance to arrive on scene has in some cases been over an hour or more.
  • The quality of AMR, the company contracted to provide our ambulance services, is what is in question since they are responsible for all aspects of Sumter County’s ambulance services: Taking 911 calls, prioritizing calls, dispatching ambulances, staffing, and managing the fleet, including acquiring vehicles and their maintenance.
  • AMR has stated they are unable to keep up with necessary demand due to staffing issues and a lack of ambulances on the road.
  • AMR is a for-profit business contracted through Sumter County. The Sumter County Commissioner has the power to end the contract. Their contract is due to expire within the next year.
  • It is unclear why Sumter County is not fining AMR for not meeting their contract requirements of enough ambulances being on the road with Paramedics for ALS care.

WHAT IS BEING DONE:  An Ad Hoc Fire, EMS and Transport committee, made up of one resident representative from each of the five Sumter County Districts was established in June and has been presented, by Sumter County, with ten possible options to address the problem.  They are meeting regularly, and the public is invited to attend those meetings. Of the ten options being considered, please note the following observations:

  • Five would eliminate The Villages Public Safety Department altogether, transferring that oversight to either Sumter County, UF Health (which is proposing the use of a nurse navigator to triage calls to determine if they actually require 911 emergency, on-site services, or if an alternate treatment plan, such as waiting to see their doctor or utilizing and urgent care facility, is advisable), or a combination of both private and county-only oversight.
  • VPSD is not part of the problem, so it is the opinion of The VHA and the majority of leadership within The Villages to only entertain the two options, #’s 7 and 9, that preserve VPSD.
  • In addition to continuing to receive the excellent service already provided by VPSD, the quality that is expected and provided to The Villages community would be retained, as well as the continuation of adjunct programs VPSD offers such as the Smoke Detector program, AED program, CPR classes, Car Seat Installation and other Public Safety programs.
  • The Villages Public Safety Department itself, per Chief Cain, has recommended that Option 9 would be the most effective and beneficial of the the ten options being considered.  It would have both the VPSD and Sumter County fire departments provide ambulance transport within The Villages and Sumter County, eliminating the source of the problem; AMR.
  • In addition, he has recently suggested a completely independent VPSD; an option that is not being considered by the Ad Hoc committee, but which is also recommended by John Dean in “A Villager’s View” on Page 5.
  • Per Chief Cain: The Villages Fire Rescue has 7 QRVs already in service out of nine stations.  Those 7 would be replaced with transport ambulances in addition to the ten vehicles already staffed and certified by the State as Paramedic response vehicles which would remain in service. Additional ambulances would be added to the other stations. There would be additional staff hired as needed.
  •  If any of the other options, involving mergers or takeover of first responder services, were to be adopted, the Villages Public Safety Department would be abolished and the level of care and response times would suffer.
  • The Villages Public Safety Department runs more calls in Sumter County than the county itself does, and is more cost effective.

In effect, eliminating the VPSD would be like throwing the baby out with the bath water.  It is our position that the part of the problem that needs to be fixed, should be fixed, without trying to “fix what ain’t broke”.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD:  Below are meeting dates that residents can attend.  Take note and if you think this matter, which often is a matter of life and death, is important, and you want to be heard, speak up.  In addition to attending meetings, write letters to your elected officials, listed below, plus to The Villages Daily Sun and/or The Villages News


Ad Hoc Fire, EMS and Transport Committee: Meetings are held at the Wildwood Community Center on Powell Road starting at 7:00 pm. on dates below:

  • August 4, 2021                Committee will discuss Options
  • August 18, 2021              Proposal will be selected
  • September 1, 2021          Review of draft report for Sumter County Board of Commissioners
  • September 15, 2021        Final Ad Hoc committee meeting

District 1 – Richard Kleindienst Sr.; District 2 – Hughlett “Leland” Greek; District 3 – Gail Lazenby; District 4 – Jeffrey Bogue; District 5 – Dave Bussone (Chairman)

The Sumter Board of County Commissioners: Meets at the Everglades Recreation Center on Marsh Bend Trail in The Villages on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month.


District 1:
District 2:
District 3:
District 4:
District 5:


ISO RATINGInsurance Services Office – an independent, for-profit organization which scores fire departments on a scale of 1-10 (1 being the highest) to determine property insurance costs.  The VPSD’s rating is 2, in the top 10% nationwide.

AMR:  American Medical Response, Inc. is a medical transportation company in the United States that provides and manages community-based medical transportation services.  They currently are under contract to provide those services for Sumter County, but it was just announced the County will take over their role for logistics and communications beginning on October 1, 2021 but they will continue to provide transportation services.

QRV:  Quick Response Vehicles.  The VPSD currently has four dedicated to medical emergencies that are non-transport vehicles.

EMT VS. PARAMEDIC: The basic difference between EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) and paramedics lies in their level of education and the kind of procedures they are allowed to perform. While EMTs can administer CPR, glucose, and oxygen, paramedics can perform more complex procedures such as inserting IV lines, administering drugs, and applying pacemakers.

FIRST RESPONDERS:  In The Villages, first responders are trained to evaluate and administer immediate care; usually an EMT or paramedic from one of the nine local fire stations.

AED An AED, or automated external defibrillator, is used to help those experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.  AEDs are located in residential neighborhoods throughout The Villages with residents trained to use them.  They can be first on the scene if they are notified of a possible cardiac event in their neighborhood.