Calif. bill would require EMTs, paramedics to stay on-call during breaks
Proposition 11 would require these paramedics and EMTs to be on-call for their full shifts as they have for years
San Francisco Chronicle
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Ambulances parked outside of fast food restaurants or coffee shops are a common sight as uniformed paramedics and medical technicians take a break between calls.
Proposition 11, which will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot and is backed by the state’s largest private ambulance operator, American Medical Response, would require these paramedics and EMTs to be on-call for their full shifts as they have for years. It would also limit legal liability for past violations of labor law.
A 2016 court decision found that security guards were entitled to breaks, as specified in state labor laws, without being on call. Some private ambulance operators, including American Medical Response, fear pending lawsuits from paramedics and EMTs could extend that right to the people who work in emergency response.
The ambulance company went to the ballot after failed attempts to resolve the issue with legislation in Sacramento. American Medical Response has bankrolled the campaign for Prop. 11, contributing $21.9 million as of Sept. 22.
The Yes on 11 campaign argues that the measure guarantees paramedics and EMTs will still get breaks while assuring that people who need immediate medical attention can count on an ambulance arriving quickly.
“Prop. 11 solves two issues,” said Marie Brichetto, spokeswoman for the Yes on Prop. 11 campaign. “First, it ensures that the closest ambulance can respond when a patient calls 911. Second, it ensures EMTs and paramedics are paid to remain on-call during breaks and that they receive extra pay if a break is missed.”
While there is no official or coordinated campaign against the measure, a labor union that represents 4,000 EMTs and paramedics in California, along with other organized labor groups, opposes Prop. 11.
Opponents say they would support being on-call for life-threatening emergencies but less-serious calls — those that don’t require ambulances to roll with lights and sirens — could be dispatched to another nearby crew.
“If another ambulance is three to four blocks away, and they can still meet required response times, is it harmful to send them instead?” asked Jason Brollini, a paramedic and executive director of United EMS Workers, a local of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
He suggested Prop. 11 was designed so ambulance companies don’t have to increase their staffing levels to cover for workers on their breaks.
In the event of a Code 3 call, or a critical incident like a heart attack, Brollini said responders would “pack up our stuff and head out immediately. Of course.”
But many calls can escalate to become more critical, Brichetto said, and ambulance operators need to be able to dispatch the closest crew, even when they’re on break.