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Captiva fire district moves toward ALS license

By TIFFANY REPECKI / trepecki@breezenewspapers.com - | Nov 24, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Fire Chief Jeff Pawul

The Lee County Board of County Commissioners has signed off on the fire district’s application for advanced life support non-transport services, allowing the district to now obtain its state license.

During a public hearing on Nov. 17, the commission unanimously passed the Captiva Island Fire Control District’s application for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (COPCN). The application was found to be sufficient, then proceeded through the administrative review process.

In accordance with county ordinance, a new COPCN application may only be granted based on competent evidence and after a public hearing. If approved, it is valid for a two-year period.

“It basically allows us to hire our own medical director, which then entails us to tailor our training needs specific to our district,” Fire Chief Jeff Pawul said. “We’re just thankful for the relationship we’ve had with the county, and we are looking forward to moving on with our own COPCN and license.”

Earlier this year, he shared with the Captiva district’s commission that he was researching medical directors to switch from piggybacking off of Lee County EMS. Pawul explained that it would provide the district with its own ALS license, plus training and education more tailored for the island crew.

At a following meeting, he recommended that Dr. Benjamin Abo provide the district with ALS-non transport medical direction for one year starting on Oct. 1, which the commission fully supported.

Prior to the vote, Pawul gave an overview of Abo’s professional experience. Working at NCH’s emergency department and serving as the medical director for some fire department task forces, Abo started his career “in the streets” in the EMS field, before he transitioned into an ER position.

“Out here on the island, we’re a little bit different than others,” Pawul said last week, referring to fire departments on the mainland not cut off by water. “Our training needs to be a little bit different.”

He added that it will benefit the public in terms of the services the district provides.

The last step in the process is for the state to approve the district’s ALS license. Pawul explained that the county had to approve the COPCN before the district could apply to the state for that license.

On a related noted, the Sanibel Fire and Rescue District has been going through the same process and also choose Abo as its medical director. The county commission approved its COPCN on Nov. 10.