‘He’ll Be Dead By The Time They Get Here’ – Residents Say Escambia EMS Units Often Unavailable In Walnut Hill, Century

February 13, 2024

“He’ll be dead by the time they get here” –  that’s how Bennie Davis of Walnut Hill described what his wife told a 911 operator as the couple waited for an Escambia County EMS ambulance to respond from Pensacola to his home near Walnut Hill as he was having a heart attack.

Davis did receive care from the volunteers from the Walnut Hill Station of Escambia County Fire Rescue. He was eventually flown to the hospital by medical helicopter and has since recovered.

District 5 Escambia County Commissioner Steven Barry has publicly said EMS units would be stationed at the EMS facility in Century and at the Walnut Hill Fire Station — just over two miles from Davis’s home. Barry has said the EMS units would remain at those posts, unless responding to calls in the Molino, Walnut Hill or Century areas.

During a District 5 town hall meeting Monday night in Cantonment, multiple residents told Commissioner Steven Barry that county ambulances are often not available in the far north end of the county because they are pulled south to answer calls elsewhere in the county.

“This is getting unacceptable,” Josh Edwards said. “It’s not happening once or twice; it’s happening more times than a lot. We need something done that we have a staff ambulance up there. I mean I realize we’ve waited and waited on (ambulances from) Pensacola but still it’s not a good situation when you don’t know if you’re going to live or die and nobody is there to help you.

Just recently, Edward’s father was down and in need of an ambulancee at his home on Oakshade Road, near Northview High School, and Edwards said no Escambia County EMS unit was available to respond. He said Walnut volunteer firefighters requested a MedStar EMS to respond from Atmore.

“One of the things that was important when we expanded (Escambia County) EMS was having a unit that would be stationed at Walnut Hill everyday,” Barry (pictured left) said. “I thought that it was staying. They started everyday up there; it turns out they weren’t staying up there. When there was a need, they were getting called to town. ”

Barry said after learning the units were being pulled south, he had numerous conversations with Public Safety Director Eric Gilmore and County Administrator West Moreno, and thought the situation had been rectified.
“If it’s the first call you’ve had that day and no one is there to respond; that’s the part that is unacceptable,” Barry added, noting that GPS and call records could be pulled to find out where the units have been and for how long.

“I knew it was a problem and became a problem, and I really thought after a handful of conversations it was addressed.”

“We thought that it was addressed,” Moreno (pictured left) said.”When that ambulance (in Walnut Hill) moves, I get a text message on my phone. I can log in and see where it goes and when it comes back. I’ve been doing that pretty regularly.”

“That’s unacceptable and that’s not going to continue. Something will happen as a result of the meeting tonight,” Barry said.

“We try to keep the ambulances up there; one in Century, one in Walnut Hill,” Gilmore (pictured below) said. He said during the incident involving Edwards’ father on Oakshade Road; both of the EMS units were on calls in the Molino area, one on Brickton road, and on Cedartown Road.

Gilmore noted that the commission has approved 18 additional EMS employees — nine medics and nine EMTS — that they are looking to hire right now. In addition, eight l EMS units are on order and are set to arrive in late February or early March.

Pictured top inset: Walnut Hill resident Bennie Davis speaks during a District 5 town hall meeting Monday evening in Cantonment. Pictured top:An Escambia County EMS unit at the Walnut Hill Fire Station. NorthEsambia.com photos, click to enlarge.


32 Responses to “‘He’ll Be Dead By The Time They Get Here’ – Residents Say Escambia EMS Units Often Unavailable In Walnut Hill, Century”

  1. CCHGN on February 16th, 2024 12:41 pm

    ll “Here’s a fact of life, move further away from population centers and you’ll get less services, at least they will not be as fast. You can’t have it both ways. You decide what you’re willing to give up to get further away.”

    ????WHAT? Well, here’s another fact of life-THAT mob mentality is NOT reality. So, with that flawed logic,the farther away from “URBAN ” I move, then my property taxes should drop. BUT, guess what? IT DOESN’T I live yup here n Walnut Hill and STILL pay $1500/ yr in property taxes, AND, I don;t have kids gong to school , so it ALL goes to 1st response services- BUT I don;t get any. My wife is a cashier t Piggly Wiggly and talks to the EMT folks, THEY say that if you need EMT, ,make sure it is on an even numbered day, as every other day they’re ither up here, or down in P’cola.

  2. Molino Resident on February 15th, 2024 12:34 am

    Just gonna put this out here.

    • From 1/1/2021-12/10/2023 Escambia County EMS has run 10,529 Opiate Overdose Calls

  3. Me on February 14th, 2024 11:57 pm

    As far as tax dollars go think of it this way. The BOCC approves a budget for EMS. This budget acts almost like a loan to cover the day to day operations of EMS. Through billing EMS is able to recoup operational costs to pay back this “loan” throughout the year. At the end of the year any profit is taken by the county to spend on other county expenses and projects how they see fit. Some of this profit comes back to EMS in the form of raises, new equipment, and new trucks. EMS is self funded but guaranteed by the county to ensure operational needs are met. ECFR is almost entirely funded by tax payers and the occasional transfer of EMS profits.

    Those who live in the more distant and rural areas still pay their fair share of taxes and should benefit from the same services afforded to those in the urban areas just as the folks who pay no taxes are.

  4. Former employee on February 14th, 2024 9:43 pm

    Fun facts about tax dollars, EMS and Fire…the tax dollars paid in DO NOT FUND EMS, only fire. With that said all of the north end tax payers have NO 24 hour paid stations north of cantonment. There are NO PARAMEDIC Fire fighters north of Cantonment. Molino, McDavid Walnut Hill And Century are volunteers. Century does staff a paid crew during the weekdays WITH NO PARAMEDIC. Emts and volunteer fire CANNOT give ANY KIND OF MEDICATION OR IV OR BREATHING TREATMENT…NOTHING while you wait for an ambulance. They can give oxygen and moral support, IF THEY ARE ABLE TO RESPOND..key word VOLUNTEERS. They have jobs, families, and are not available 24/7. This has always been the problem. If you pay taxes shouldn’t you be entitled to the same availability in an emergency as the south end?

  5. Coalmine on February 14th, 2024 2:52 pm


    Defensive much? Like someone posted previously, if you live in an area with less residents, you’re going to have to deal with less, or slower, services. You can’t have it both ways.

    It isn’t that your life is less valuable than anyone in the closer proximity of town, it’s a per capita basis. Logistically, it doesn’t make sense to have 5 uinits servicing 300,000 and 1 unit servicing 20,000. These statistics are just an example, I have no idea what the actual numbers are but the logic is there. I’m sorry that you’re upset. Just have to look at averages and means.

    Have a great day, though!

  6. jb on February 14th, 2024 10:43 am

    I fell early morning 9-13–it was close to 45 minutes and them—they took me to the new west Florida medical center pine forest-I was in extreme pain as the ball of the joint was out of the hip–I COULD not get an answer as to why–when I arrived—the nurses asked why they brought me there–no answer-meantime NO PAIN MEDS and I am hurting-so back into the ambulance and finally to the hospital—ARE YOU KIDDING ME

  7. Miranda on February 14th, 2024 3:08 am

    The sad part is we had to call them for me one night and was told it would be over an hour before they could be there!! ( Byrneville) My son drove me to the hospital and got pulled over in Molino and the cops made us wait for them to come and get me and it still took 30 minutes for them to get there!! And when they did show up they did NOTHING for me! They just told me “I hope the hospital can help you out better than we did” I was in DKA (diabetic keto acidosis) when we got pulled over and had to wait on them to finally show up!! Five days in ICU and they didn’t even start an IV to give me fluids!! And then they want your insurance to pay an arm and leg for just a ride and a sheet!! But if I was a junkie and just overdosed you can bet I would have got Narcan on the spot!!!

  8. Me on February 14th, 2024 1:02 am

    The thing that upsets me the most is the wasted potential. Escambia County EMS has an opportunity to be a premier provider of emergency medical services in the southeast. We are the largest city from here to Tallahassee. To the west we are in league with Mobile and New Orleans when it comes to call volume. We live in a beautiful area with a thriving economy and host the Cradle of Naval Aviation. We have the ability and resources to provide exemplary medical care and we have squandered it with greedy, power hungry, insecure leadership from top to bottom. This is a real shame and a real disservice to the citizens of Escambia County. I know the commissioners will deny, cast blame and obfuscate to save face but in the end they must be held accountable for the failures of the people they hire and appoint. I’ve provided this information as someone who has been affiliated with EMS for a decade and with ECEMS for nearly 7. I admit that as a road employee I may not have all of the data but if you’re trapped inside a burning house it isn’t hard to deduce that it’s on fire. I have given you the point of view of someone who was on the inside and was forced to leave the job theyI loved due to years of failed or absent leadership. I am hopeful for the citizens sake that this catastrophe will be righted but my experience has given me little reason to be.

  9. Citizen on February 13th, 2024 11:41 pm

    that’s the trade of for the seclusion, less people less services

    Get over it

  10. Shay on February 13th, 2024 10:36 pm

    Get over yourself coal mine, it IS worse in Molino. Your heart attack patient is still alive, stop your crying bc ours wouldn’t be, and we are paying just as much taxes as you, assuming you pay any. We don’t exist, except for our taxes.

  11. Dissatisfied on February 13th, 2024 10:32 pm

    Two weeks ago my mother went to Sacred Heart ER on 9 mile at 1130 AM, the facility called for an EMS transport before 12 PM because she was having cardiac symptoms. An ambulance FINALLY arrived at 630 PM to transport her to Sacred where she was admitted and found to have suffered a mild heart attack. The facility wouldn’t let her leave and let me transport her to the hospital because of their liability.

    Our EMS can’t handle the pressure our Country administration has placed on them. Barry & crew have balked at public safety support for years yet they’re allowing builders to put new subdivisions and apartments in every available space.

    Something has to change but until the county voters put a stop to it, we’ll continue to be in this mess for years to come.

  12. Heidi Lipe on February 13th, 2024 9:09 pm

    It would be interesting to see the data.
    1. How many rigs are on the street each shift?
    2. Based on demographics what is the minimum number of rigs needed to safely cover Escambia County per shift?
    3. Where is each rig located?
    4. What is the call ratio vs rig location throughout the day?
    5. Are rigs rotating to cover high volume needs based on data?
    6. Is there a rover rig available that can cover an area such as Walnut Hill if that unit is on a call requiring patient transportation to Pensacola?
    7. What is the average response time for EMS? Has it changed in the past year?
    8. Why hasn’t the county designated a specific transfer unit to be used for facility transfers rather than pulling a rig off the street?
    9. What was the employee turnover rate for 2023?
    10. Why did so many employees leave?
    11. Why is the Medical Director for Escambia County located in Fort Walton?
    12. Why isn’t the Medical Director board certified in Emergency Medicine?
    These are just a few of my questions. I don’t have an agenda, as a citizen of Escambia County I’d just like to know.

  13. Bill on February 13th, 2024 7:51 pm

    Here’s a fact of life, move further away from population centers and you’ll get less services, at least they will not be as fast. You can’t have it both ways. You decide what you’re willing to give up to get further away.

  14. One more in Molino on February 13th, 2024 7:48 pm

    If another unit were positioned in Molino or Cantonment, that should keep the units at Walnut Hill and Century in their home territory for a greater percentage of the time.

  15. Gold Star on February 13th, 2024 7:10 pm

    The Commissioner and Administrator stated they had previously addressed this ambulance problem in the North end of the county and told whomever was responsible for stationing the ambulances this was not acceptable and they wanted it fixed why wasn’t the order carried out and if it wasn’t why didn’t the person or persons in charge report back to the commissioner or the administrator and let them know why it wasn’t being addressed. Most jobs if you are told to take care of something and you ignore what you have been told to do your rear end gets called to the carpet, maybe there are too many bosses down town that don’t think they have to answer to anyone, in the meantime during the power struggle down town and no one being held responsible the good old Northend has to pay the price again just because we don’t want to live in Molino or anywhere South of there, last time I checked we in the Northend pay taxes the same as folks in the Southend. P. S. Mr Barry and administrator Moreno if the people you are instructing to handle the problem are not doing what they were told to do there’s always the carpet or someone that is willing to do the job.

  16. Northender on February 13th, 2024 6:41 pm

    I’m just gonna put this here.

    Statistics show Escambia Emergency Medical Services ran a total of 10,529 opiate overdose calls from 2021 to 2023, with 3,753 overdose calls from Jan. 1 through Dec. 10 of 2023.

  17. He’s a turd on February 13th, 2024 6:23 pm

    You’re hiring to replace the ones that walked out! This is comical because your not addressing the root problem of bad management, bad supervisors, and favoritism. The GOBC ALIVE and WELL in eSCAMbia.

  18. John williams on February 13th, 2024 6:17 pm

    Escambia County, FL. thinks they have a problem with EMS. They should here what I’m about to say, the ambulance service in Flomaton AL will not take you but to 3 local hospitals regardless of what’s wrong. Usually takes multiple pages before they respond. Good luck Florida residents with your issues because across the line is no better!!

  19. Not suprised on February 13th, 2024 5:53 pm

    I can imagine if there is only one truck in the north end, once they get a call and have to take the patient all the way to Pensacola, round trip that’s probably 2 hours before they can get back to the north end of the county. Maybe there needs to be something about when you call an ambulance you go to the nearest available hospital, one that doesn’t have 10 ambulances lined up in the hallway waiting for room assignments because the hospital is full. Maybe if you choose ems services they dont let you pick hospital of your choice. They take you to the one they can get the quickest turn around at. Another thing is the citizens of escambia county need to use the ems for emergencies. If you are walking, talking and breathing, get in the car and drive yourself. Just because you take an ambulance doesn’t mean you will be seen faster. This day and age you’ll go to the lobby just as fast to be triaged if there are no rooms in the back and you are stable enough to sit in a wheel chair.

  20. Coalmine on February 13th, 2024 4:40 pm

    This isn’t just an issue in Molino or northwards, but all over Escambia. My folks live off Scenic Hwy and my stepfather fell in his driveway, landing on his back and hitting his head. I found him there, and he was in and out of coherence. He was in a lot of pain. We called EMS and told them what was going on. The dispatcher did say that if things change, to call back.

    After about 25-30 minutes, he was asking where loved ones were that had passed away and if they were coming. He wanted me to call them and tell them to come. He was almost screaming in pain at that point and having difficulty breathing. I called back and she said the call was holding that they didn’t have any ambulances available. Once I explained the new symptoms, she dispatched fire who showed up. They helped us move him into the air conditioning but he continued to poor sweat. They were able to get an ambulance there sooner due to his critical state but had they not come or I not called them a second time, no telling how long he would have been there.

    Again, this isn’t a Molino or Century issue, it’s an Escambia county issue. Be thankful and kind to the EMTs we do have, they’re working their butts off.

  21. REF on February 13th, 2024 3:51 pm

    @ tax payer out of all of this you’re worried about paid firefighters shopping for food. Get a life and get over yourself. They need the apparatus to respond in. They also do shopping alot of times on the way back to the station. The whole EMS system needs a overhaul. Understaffed and overworked to the point calls are being on hold for hours. Volunteers are great but are limited on what they can do on scene. Be thankful for the paid firefighters and EMS services and I pray you never need them. People are absolutely worn out from the call volume and lack of resources and leaving by the droves. I pray things turn around quickly.

  22. Eric M on February 13th, 2024 3:24 pm

    I found out the hard way about not having ambulances. My grandson, who lives with me, had his tonsils taken out. The night after he got out of the hospital, the stitches tore and he almost bled to death by the time it was discovered (he was a year old at the time). I called 911 and was eventually told that nobody was available to help. He almost died. Another 5 or 10 minutes and he wouldn’t be with us today.

    We need multiple, full time ems here in the north end that stays here for local calls, period.

    I will say that we’ve needed ems on 2 other occasions and they arrived fairly quickly. None of this is the ems or the firefighters fault. They can only do so much with the resources they have. God Bless all of you 1st responders.

  23. Tax man on February 13th, 2024 2:50 pm

    The fire dept takes the brunt of EMS’s shortfall. It’s terrible. Also, for the person saying we need fewer firefighters, we need more. Yeah you might get a firetruck with volunteers but you’re getting 1 person on a truck also the outlying stations have PARAMEDICS ON THE FIRETRUCKS. The fireman have to shop on duty for their food if you’d like to call up a firehouse and tell them you’ll feed them for their 24-hour shift then go right ahead, but they aren’t wasting ur measly $100 fire tax by going to the store.

  24. David Huie Green on February 13th, 2024 2:45 pm

    Escambia County Children’s Trust Has plenty of money to give away. REGARDING:
    “Funnel that cash over for real problems”

    Steal from the children?

    Even if you lived next to a hospital, I suspect there would be times when help was not immediately available.

    The idea that people needing help in Molino should do without because people in Walnut Hill or Century or even Bluff Springs might need help makes little sense

    Also, the idea that emergency equipment should never be used other than in emergency situations ignores the fact that it needs to be operated to keep it operational. It’s possible to overdo it, but establish that first.

    David for Gilmores

  25. tax payer on February 13th, 2024 12:30 pm

    Less paid firer fighters MORE EMT’S AND PARA MEDIC’S.

    the volunteer firefighters, did an out standing job for centuries, because they loved it, not for pay.

    I’m for paying volunteer firefighters, for each call they respond to. We do’t need (so many) full time paid driving around and shopping in our million dollar trucks

  26. North end resident on February 13th, 2024 11:54 am

    Every EMS service is short handed and being spread out all over the place. There are not enough EMT’s to cover. They have to work long hours and then have to finish their paper work before they can leave. Most of them do not have time to get paper work done before on another call. Most are over worked and under paid.

  27. Florida logger on February 13th, 2024 11:47 am

    I watched a ambulance drive around for 15 minutes finally they stopped and asked for a certain address they was looking for they was not even close to where they needed be maybe better gps systems and whoever needs the EMS please try calmly to make ur address clear and understandable but we thank the EMS for what they do in bad situations

  28. JTV on February 13th, 2024 11:32 am

    Escambia County Children’s Trust Has plenty of money to give away. Funnel that cash over for real problems

  29. Paul on February 13th, 2024 11:18 am

    I hear it all of the time on the scanner. EMS holding calls.
    I also hear the Hospitals not having enough room for them.
    We can do better than this.

  30. Reluctant on February 13th, 2024 9:27 am

    I am reluctant to believe we will have enough help in this area. It is to the point that residents do not want to live here due to the lack of EMS and police assistance in a timely manner. We know they are doing what they can and appreciate it. But something has to give. We cannot depend on atmore ambulance and honestly I had rather not be taken there in a true emergency. Now would I want to go to Jay. If not Pensacola then Bayminette or Mobile. When my dad had an accident and broke his arm at a very elderly age we waited for almost an hour for EMS to arrive even though we are just across the line from atmore. Unacceptable! We need more medical services up here and officers. There are too many accidents in this area (Hwy 97) to be an example, for there to be no police or ambulances nearby. Thank you to ALL first responders and volunteer firefighters for all you do.

  31. SW on February 13th, 2024 8:29 am

    I was told by both an EMS employee and a volunteer firefighter, there were, indeed, 2 ambulances stationed in the north end- 1 in Walnut Hill and 1 in Century…however, they rotated and one or the other would stay while the other answered calls in Pensacola. I was told it was a common and expected rotation. The volunteer firefighters do an outstanding job of holding things down until EMS arrives, but there are limitations, even for them.

    That, gentlemen, is completely unacceptable. Are our tax dollars not worth as much as those in Pensacola? Truth is, they seem not to be. In the past, an Atmore ambulance would fill in on the west side and a Brewton ambulance would fill in on the east side; but, as I understand, that is no longer the case.

    We shall see if anything changes after this meeting. Will it be another case of the north end of the county being ‘forgotten’ by those in Pensacola?

  32. Grady Smith on February 13th, 2024 4:58 am

    For the taxes that we are paying, we should have better.

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