CLEVELAND -- For 25 years the Association of Firefighters, Local 93, says it has advocated for an integrated Fire and EMS system. The city's plan to integrate is set to begin phasing in on Monday, but the union says it will be at the cost of reduced staffing.
On Monday EMS vehicles will be located at various fire stations and fire trucks will soon carry a paramedic and medical equipment on board so they can start treating patients on scene.
A good idea since firefighters are usually on scene first. Typically a fire truck and EMS ambulance both respond to calls, but the new plan would streamline responses by having a paramedic on board. However, if a patient needs hospital transport, an ambulance will have to be called.
"This is something that's not going to happen overnight but this is something that's going to provide better service in the long run," says Larry Gray, Cleveland Fire Department Public Information Officer.
Meanwhile, Frank Szabo, president of Local 93 says the plan is flawed. He says it will close two of four rescue squads and the two remaining squads won't provide advanced life support.
The union argues the number of ambulances that can transport patients will go from 20 to 17 and daily firefighter staffing will go from 161 to 155. Gray disagrees saying it will drop to 157.
Safety Director Martin Flask has different math. "We've increased ambulances from 15 to 18 we're increasing rescue squads from one to five," Flask says.
Gray also admits there may be some growing pains while the plan works into place and asks the community be patient. But he's confident that it will not only work, but increase response time significantly. When Columbus fire integrated, Grays says response times decreased three minutes.
Time keeping, payroll and supply requisitions have already merged and talks are ongoing to integrate EMS and Fire dispatch as well.