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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

Why Philly EMS can't evolve

Philadelphia could take a cue from its big city neighbor to the north, FDNY, to help bring improvements

By Arthur Hsieh

Is it news that yet another big U.S. city doesn't place its resources where the need is? Sadly, no.

Most of us who follow the news knows that Philadelphia paramedics have been getting the short end of the stick for many years; decades, really.

It isn't for the lack of trying by the EMS personnel — entrenchment of long-standing fire suppression models prevents itself from evolving.

When you add the general public apathy toward its public safety system, it all adds up to a system that is allowed to run on traditional practices, unimpeded by progress. 

Philadelphia could take a cue from its big city neighbor to the north, FDNY. While far from being a model system, EMS units in New York City are beginning to achieve response times that exist in most other parts of the country.

FDNY has even gone so far as to implement modern field care protocols such as therapeutic hypothermia. It's these glimmers of hope that suggest EMS can do well in huge urban environments.

It's a bit cliche to say, but nothing is impossible if there is a will to make it happen. Bright, progressive leaders from all ranks of the organization, along with outside stakeholders must not take a piecemeal approach to system reform.

It'll take both political and operational will to make change happen that will ultimately benefit Philadelphia citizens.

About the author

EMS1 Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. Since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at an EMS service in Northern California. Contact Art at
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