Calif. city manager apologizes for calling EMS personnel 'bus drivers'

Garden Grove City Manager Scott Stiles made the comments while discussing ambulance response times at a meeting last month

By Laura French

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. — A city manager in California has apologized for comments he made at a meeting last month, when he referred to EMS personnel as “bus drivers.”

Garden Grove City Manager Scott Stiles made the comments after Council Member George S. Brietigam called an emergency agenda item over a change in the deployment model of the city’s contracted ambulance service, Care Ambulance.

“I know a lot of people think the people driving our ambulances are paramedics and EMTs. They’re bus drivers – for lack of a better (word),” Stiles said. “They drive the patients to the hospital. They’re drivers.”

As concerns that response times would be impacted after Care Ambulance changed its deployment model to serve communities outside of the city, Stiles added that firefighters trained as paramedics are the first to arrive to an emergency and treat the patient before they are transported to the hospital.

Stiles apologized for his comments in a Twitter post on Wednesday, saying, “I was speaking quickly and it was a very poor choice of words on my part. I immediately sent a heartfelt note to the Director of Care Ambulance and his team of professionals recognizing the important nature of their work. Our highly-trained ambulance drivers are critical in providing medical care to patients, and I value them greatly.”

Stiles also said he seeks to further educate himself on the topic.

Several responded to Stiles’ tweet unsatisfied with the apology.

“This is the reason the public thinks EMS are just ‘ambulance drivers’ and that the fire service provides all the medical care,” said one user. “EMS is a calling: people do the same work as fire and receive half the pay and credit. Heroes drive ambulances, too.”

“Ambulance Drivers, eh? I guess that’s one step above ‘Bus Driver,’” another user added.

Susquehanna Township EMS in Pennsylvania also responded to the tweet, saying, “Poor choice of nomenclature aside, the profound lack of understanding at the municipal level is why essential public service like EMS are undervalued nationwide. This jeopardizes our citizens’ health and safety.” 


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