Several cities in no general direction of me sits a municipality that is, in much respects very similar to where I primarily work. Call volume and some minor things are different, but the two areas are pretty comparable. Let’s call them Metropolis.
Metropolis has a fire department. And a good sized-one too, I guess. I don’t really know what constitutes a “good sized” fire department to be completely honest, but I think they have at least three battalions.
Metropolis is served by a private EMS service, and have been for many years. As far as I know, it has been a good relationship.
Enter new fire chief with a new way of thinking. Now, in all fairness, I don’t know when this new chief showed up, and it doesn’t really matter. You see, the new fire chief was riding around one day and saw a big shiny ambulance with orange stripes and said “hey, I bet we could buy a new pumper and hire some more firefighters if we ran the ambulances.”
Of course, I don’t know if that’s exactly what the chief thought, or even remotely close to the thought process. It doesn’t matter. Metropolis FD has intimated in city council meetings that they want to take over the EMS contract.
“Quit paying the ambulance a subsidy, and we stop losing money. Start billing for ambulances, and we start making money.”
Sounds good on paper, or in a 30 second sound bite on the 6 o’clock news.
Now we have to make all the firefighters (that aren’t already) EMTs, and we have to hire paramedics. Not to speak for anyone else, but I wouldn’t be too hurried to work for the city that shut down my ambulance service and put my friends out of a job.
So let’s fast-forward a little bit. Someone gets the bright idea that they can complete EMT training in eight weeks. They will cycle firefighters through the class, twenty at a time, and make every firefighter an EMT, and create new ALS ambulance units with the paramedics they plan on hiring out of thin air.
Eight weeks for an EMT class. 8 hours per day. 5 days per week. 320 hours.
My EMT training was 4 hour days, three days per week, over 13 months. Over 600 hours. My Paramedic training was 16 hours per week for 18 months. Almost 1200 hours. We all know how woefully inadequate our initial training is already.
And now we are going to have an entire city fire department running EMS with a bunch of 320-hour EMTs?
Imagine the shock and consternation when the city’s first EMT class finished, and 3 of them passed their National Registry exam.
Three. 15 percent.
This is obviously not how fire-based EMS is supposed to run, and I would venture to say that it’s not done this way anywhere else in this country.
But this is a good argument to keep EMS separate.
I believe in EMS-based EMS, and I will continue to advocate for such. We shouldn’t force firefighters to go to EMT school when they only want to fight fire. We shouldn’t force EMSers to don turnout gear if they only want to take care of people.