‘Shoot’n’ From The Hip
By: Francis D. Kelly, Secretary
On Thursday, May 8, 2003, I had the opportunity to listen to the EMS Medical Director, Dr. Isaacs, and his staffs, Chiefs Smith and Groothoff, address the Fire Commission.

Chief Smith updated the Commission on a number of Health Prevention Programs. Working with the Board of Supervisors Task Force on Asthma, providing paramedics for outreach and prevention services. The Mobile Outreach Support Team (MOST), a program instrumental in connecting homeless people to services. Involvement in these services intoned Chief Smith supports EMS mission and goals to reduce suffering within the community using paramedics for public outreach.

These are well intentioned goals and no one could question the passion and compassion on display at the Commission meeting that night. I found Chief Smith’s statements to be quite admirable. I know of no

paramedic nor firefighter who would deny or deprive a child of medical treatment, a homeless person, shelter, or the hungry, food to eat. Yet our culture is continually maligned by some of our own Commissioners.

Healthcare prevention programs are the responsibility of the Department of Public Health. Due to budget constraints (some $40 million will be cut from the DPH General Fund this year) there are some programs that DPH can no longer sustain. It is not the responsibility of the Fire Department to act as the extension to Department of Public Health.

And I apologize that we are not social workers. Our job is to provide EMERGENCY SERVICE. You call us when your house is on fire, you call us when your loved one is having a heart attack. You should call us when there’s an EMERGENCY; but in today’s epidemic inclined environment, you call us for lack of cab fare.

Perhaps those paramedics dedicated to providing outreach would better serve their vocation and the Department by providing medical attention and compassion to reduce suffering within the community on the street. Much like their brother and sister 2532’s, H1s and H3s do on a daily basis. They certainly are not reducing the call volume by working out at the Presidio (I’ll address that issue later).

Consider the rumor of 2532s and H1s losing their jobs possibly to be true. Some have pointed their finger at Local 798’s campaign to “cut the fat not the firefighter” and believe we are at the center of this controversy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Larry Bradshaw and Johnny Frank should both know we have always been in support of Dual paramedic dynamically deployed ambulances working 8, 10, or 12 hour shifts. After all, nothing that this merger has thrown at us ever worked better.

Is it possible that the merger advocates feel 2532 and H1 are expendable?

Expansion of the ALS program, the 1+1 ambulance and now outreach programs are pushing the budget to reduce staffing in suppression as well. This Union stands to lose fifty (50) positions, and the possibility of brown-outs for engine and truck companies due to budget constraints. Yet the Chief of the Department and Fire Commission continue to support expansion of the ALS program while overtime costs for the program continue to increase. Go figure.

Chief Groothoff remarked on the success of the expansion to ALS Engines in the downtown corridors. “...Engine 1, Engine 3, and Engine 41 had an increased number of calls and they already are busy units.” Wow! Now there’s a revelation. We cautioned the Commission several times on this very issue. Once again it fell on deaf ears. Chief Groothoff noted that “the data had been analyzed and it was determined that the cause was staffing.” Groothoff further noted “...EMS will modify the staffing matrix.” Does this means that Chief Groothoff will redesignate an ALS engine company in the Bay View to BLS, detailing another paramedic downtown or will he increase overtime to make it work?

Here’s a novel idea. Cut the FAT at the Presidio, no, close the Presidio; reduce paramedic outreach and save the jobs of Chiefs Aides, 2532s and H1s; increasing the number of dual paramedic ambulances by reducing 1+1 ambulances by at least fifty percent (50%) and deploy them dynamically.

Oh yes, I almost forgot, will somebody please listen!


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