Ravenstahl's plan shifts paramedic work to fire bureau

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Despite the paramedic union's rejection of a contract proposal, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's administration said Tuesday that it remains committed to a new rescue-response plan that would transfer work to the fire bureau.

The paramedics, working without a contract since December 2010, voted 134-9 on Friday to reject an offer that would have involved giving up certain rescue responsibilities.

Changing rescue procedures "is in the best interest of public safety," Joanna Doven, spokeswoman for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, said Tuesday. "We remain committed to that."

Public Safety Director Michael Huss reiterated the city's position Monday during a meeting with union leaders. "It really is up to them to determine what the next step is," Ms. Doven said of the medics.

During a city council meeting Tuesday, Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith said this is a difficult time for paramedics and their families.

To improve efficiency and response time, the city proposed putting vehicle extrication equipment on fire trucks, which are more numerous and respond to accidents anyway.

The city also proposed creating a joint paramedic-firefighter unit for more complicated rescues.

With fewer paramedics needed for rescues, the city could put more ambulance crews on the street at peak call times for other medical emergencies.

Consultants and the city's state-appointed financial overseers have advocated the shifting of rescue work to the fire bureau. The change is part of the city's 3-year-old amended recovery plan.

The fire bureau, in recent years, has worked to evolve into an "all hazards" department. Its members are trained in vehicle extrication, and many are emergency medical technicians.

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Joe Smydo: jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548.


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