Baby's death renews call for fire-based ambulance response

After years of running fire-based ALS, the city laid off dozens of firefighters and got out of the ambulance business in 2014

By Thomas J. Prohaska
The Buffalo News

LOCKPORT, N.Y. — The recent death of a baby girl has led Alderman Mark S. Devine to demand that the city restore the legal ability of firefighters to perform advanced life support techniques.

Devine, a retired assistant fire chief, said at Wednesday's Common Council work session that he wants a vote next week on applying to the state Health Department to restore that license.

The city had advanced life support services from firefighters for many years, until the 2013-14 financial crisis, when the city got out of the ambulance business and laid off more than a dozen firefighters. The Fire Department still sends a truck to most rescue calls, but the firefighters can perform only basic life support.

Fire Chief Patrick K. Brady said the city is seeking state approval to add the use of medications to that basic status. Advanced life support would include more sophisticated medication and medical equipment. Thus, although the state Health Department approved the restoration of basic life support, Lockport fire trucks at present carry no medications, Brady said.

The city contracts with Twin City Ambulance, but fire trucks often arrive before the ambulance.

Devine, a Republican from the 3rd Ward, said a 2 1/2 -month-old girl died a couple of weeks ago in his neighborhood when she was suffocated accidentally by her mother.

He said the mother fell asleep and rolled over onto her child. The first responder was a firefighter.

Devine said, "I don't know if he could have saved that little baby or not, but he didn't have the equipment on the engine. It's time these guys applied to the state and get the equipment back on the engine."

Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said, "For you to make a decision without hearing from the department, it's not fully vetted."

"I'm moving forward with this whether Chief Brady wants it or not," Devine said.

Alderman R. Joseph O'Shaughnessy, D-at large, said he will vote with Devine.

"This advanced lifesaving is so important in a community that's so old," O'Shaughnessy said.

McCaffrey said the issues include coordination with Twin City and county dispatchers, the impact on the firefighters union contract and costs.

Copyright 2016 The Buffalo News

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