~ TRANSITION TEAM UPDATE ~
|By Brie Mathews|
|By now, most of you have heard about the transition team assembled at the request of Chief Trevino to assist in resolving the many issues regarding the EMS/FD merger. What you may not know is who the players are and what exactly is being discussed. So, in an effort to inform everyone on our progress, I will attempt to outline the discussions that have transpired thus far.
The transition team is made up of people from varying ranks chosen by Chief Trevino, Chief McCallion, and Local 798. From administration, Chief Trevino is accompanied by ADC Hayes-White and AC Stevenson. Chief McCallion brings with him RC Groothoff and FF/PM Ken Chan. And finally, FF/Executive Board member Tom OConnor, FF Matt Scola, FF Dave Amituanai, FF/PM Bill Lafferty, FF/PM Brie Mathews, and FF/PM Russ Zimmerman represent Local 798. On occasion, certain other members of the department have attended briefly in order to provide information and/or clarification where necessary. So far, these people include Human Resources Director Binnie Singh, Chief Financial Officer Christine Ragan, and DOT Cpt. Russ Albano.
Although all members of this transition team have been included in these discussions by various means, the overall consensus has been that we must put the past behind us and work together to resolve the many long-standing issues that have plagued the merger. The first item of agreement was that under no circumstances shall any plan be announced until it is determined that it will indeed be initiated on time. With that said, I will try to provide a concise summary of our discussions. Keep in mind, however, that at the time of this article there has yet to be an official plan with regards to 1/1, RPRS, or ALS engines and since discussions are ongoing there may be changes following this update.
So far, the items of most concern include but are not limited to:
Many other sub-topics have also been discussed but generally fall into one of the above categories. From the union perspective, suppression training for the medics has to meet certain criteria. First, whenever possible all training should be consistent with current department training policies. With regards to the training of medics at T.I., we were assured by both ADC Hayes-White and Cpt. Albano that all training given was equal to if not better than training given to new hires. The exceptions being that the medics were not given in-depth pump training or aerial practice. To rectify that and considering the training for some was given quite some time ago, a refresher course is being developed and will be implemented prior to beginning any field training.
The refresher course will start with the 48 most senior H-3s needing training. The course will consist of 40 hours (4 consecutive days, 10 hours long) held both on and off duty. TC will be granted for off-duty hours. Although concerns were raised regarding the fatigue factor of attending on consecutive days, many members of the committee including Chief Trevino felt that this was the best way to get the training done in a timely manner without costing the department too much money.
The next topic of concern was how to implement the suppression training. This is where the bulk of our discussions were directed. The RPRS concept was again presented by Chief McCallion and company but met with many concerns from union representatives regarding among other things:
In the face of these concerns, we presented what we considered to be a solution to all of the above issues. Basically, we asked that the department commit to hiring an initial 48-52 paramedic laterals or H-2s with medic licenses and then additional medics as needed. We challenged that those 48-52 medics could back-fill ambulance positions while the H-3 trainees received 8 months of uninterrupted field training (4 months engine/4 months truck). New-hire H-2 medics, as a condition of employment following TI training, would simply have to work LWLP on the ambulance until the backlog of H-3 training is cleared. Given that the department has recently held an entrance exam, we felt that this was a low-cost alternative that would, among other things, keep 2 paramedics on ambulances, reduce details, improve patient care, keep EMTs on engines to learn from the engine medics, and not increase workload. Chief Trevino quickly informed us that although the entrance exam has been given, the department is currently over-staffed by 48 personnel and no new hires are expected until positions open up.
This information basically forced us to revisit the 1/1 concept. Chief Trevino showed much concern over possibly losing more medics to other departments and emphasized that we needed to start a program expediently. He asked us to again consider the 1/1. Left with no alternatives, we conceded to a limited pilot program in which the following criteria are met:
The initial wave of 1/1 will consist of 4 ambulances 1/1 and 12 ALS engines and trucks. 36 of the most senior medics needing field training will go first followed by the remainder of medics in seniority order. Consideration will be given to medics wishing to defer for personal reasons. H-2 to H-3s off probation will fill in on engines during the trainees 5-day either on a 2 engine rotation or as details. As for H-2 EMTs, their placement will most likely be by sign-up but that too, has yet to be finalized.
Following the initial wave of 1/1 (after 8 months), the program will be assessed to determine how best to proceed. Many options will be considered including hiring medics should the opportunity arise. It is important that everyone participate in giving feedback on the pilot study. We will be developing a form specific to 1/1 to make it easy to report back information on the progress/problems with 1/1. Let me stress that any information turned in must be true and accurate so that we can get a legitimate assessment of how the pilot is or is not working or whether it needs to be tweaked in any way. It is also important to understand that although ALS trucks are not ideal, we need them temporarily for training purposes, please be patient during this transition.
I realize that this update leaves many questions unanswered. Many of those questions have yet to be worked out but I hope this sheds some light on our progress so far. Any questions can be directed to those members of the team or to Local 798.