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Cutting medics upsets Philly firefighters' union

Mayor Nutter's proposal will send out ambulances on advanced life-support calls with a medic and lesser-qualified EMT rather than the usual two medics

The Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Philadelphia Firefighters' Union Local 22 is pushing back at Mayor Nutter's proposal to send out ambulances on advanced life-support calls with a paramedic and lesser-qualified EMT rather than the usual two paramedics.

Local 22 president Joe Schulle said the proposal exposes the public to risk by dipping below the National Fire Protection Association standard of two paramedics and two EMTs for every ALS call.

"We're taking a serious step back in our emergency medical protection that we offer to citizens. There's no way around it," said Schulle during a news conference Tuesday at union headquarters. "You can't equate an EMT with 10 weeks of training to a paramedic with two years."

Paramedics undergo training of up to two years and can insert intravenous lines into patients and give shots. EMTs only undergo 10 weeks of training and provide more basic care such as CPR and administering oxygen.

The Nutter administration, however, has made it clear the city plans to make changes.

Michael Resnick, the city's director of public safety, said the current two-paramedic model for ALS cases is unnecessary.

"State standards only require that one paramedic and one EMT be stationed to each unit," he said.

Hiring more EMTs and pairing them with paramedics will allow the EMS system to distribute staff more evenly and cover more territory, Resnick said.

Deputy Fire Commissioner David Gallagher said paramedics were concentrated on too few ambulances. He said the change would net an increase in coverage, with as many as eight more available ambulances on some days. The proposal will also put additional paramedics in SUVs that will respond as a second paramedic to ALS calls.

The union said the move is really about cutting costs: An EMT's salary is 30 percent less than that of a paramedic.

The union was notified 10 days ago that the issue would be discussed at Wednesday's Civil Service Commission meeting.

The union was brought in "late in the game," said Schulle, who was joined on Tuesday by State Reps. Michael O'Brien and Angel Cruz, and City Councilman Bobby Henon.

"You have a lot of friends over in City Council," Henon, who called the proposed cuts "irresponsible," told Schulle.

Copyright 2014 The Philadelphia Inquirer
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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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