By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The city firefighters’ union is turning to City Council for help now that the municipal Civil Service Commission has okayed the mayor’s plan to pair paramedics with lesser-trained technicians on ambulance calls.
After about a half-hour of debate, the Civil Service Commission this morning approved the mayor’s plan to create a new classification of employee within the fire department: emergency medical technician (EMT).
Fire commissioner Lloyd Ayers told the panel before the vote that one EMT will work alongside a paramedic, who have more training and additional medical skills, on certain calls.
Currently, an ambulance carrying two paramedics is provided for about two-thirds of all medic calls. The remaining calls use one paramedic and one Philadelphia firefighter who has additional training as an EMT. The new EMT classification would allow those firefighter-EMTs to be substituted with non-firefighters.
“The plan is solid, the plan is logical, and it’s the one that’s going to give our citizens the highest and best service,” Ayers said.
Deputy fire commissioner David Gallagher said the plan will allow the city to boost the number of ambulances available for dispatch.
But Local 22 union members such as Roy Burkett Jr., a 28-year veteran of the fire department, told commission members that emergency care will be compromised:
“I’ve done it for years and I tell you right now: it’s not going to work with an EMT who is only limited to certain skills. They don’t intubate. They don’t start IVs. They only use an AED (automated external defibrillator) and oxygen and maybe do (chest) compressions.”
After the commission’s approval, which was expected, union leader Joe Schulle said a legal appeal would be fruitless because this matter likely falls under managerial prerogative. But he said he intends to ask for City Council’s help to quash Nutter’s plan.
“Council can pass laws through the Fire Code that absolutely mandate staffing,” Schulle said today.
In general, councilmembers have been sympathetic to Local 22 in the union’s long-running battles with the Nutter administration over a wide range of staffing and deployment policies.