AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Austin Public Safety Commission is revisiting an idea to merge paramedic and fire services.
Doing so would save between $9-16 million, according to the commission vice chairman, Mike Levy.
I’m not much good with finance, if I were, I probably wouldn’t be a paramedic. Still, I can tell you that an estimate of $9-16 Million is little more than a Wild Ass Guess. Which means that they don’t have a good grasp of the numbers or where and how they can save.
The idea would be to keep paramedics and firefighters as two different work groups with different bargaining agreements.
We would save an enormous amount of money,” said Levy, who also pointed to signs of declining morale and service at Austin-Travis EMS. “It has fallen far, far, down from the standard.”
Which I take to mean paint the ambulances like fire trucks, but keep the pay, work load, benefits, etc., the same as they are now. You can bet that none of the savings will go into improving any of that. If morale is low in EMS, how about replacing the management with people who understand EMS and can manage? I have friends who live in Austin and are pretty well connected to the goings on at A/TCEMS. Things are not going well there because the medical director has no respect towards or from the medics. Management seems to have other priorities, which is odd since they are supposed to be running an EMS system. They are having a hard time keeping paramedics and are staffing more ambulances with “Medic Ones” (BLS) with “Medic Twos” (paramedics). Part of that is because of budget short falls.
If morale is low in EMS, how about replacing the management with people who understand EMS and can manage? These problems are caused by poor EMS management. The solution is good EMS management, not good fire management doing a crappy job managing something they don’t understand.
The “We’ll save lots of money” line is always brought up when a so called merger is proposed. It just seems that after the merger, the savings are never what they were promised to be. Nor does morale or service improve. In this case, the savings won’t even go towards providing more or better service. They’ll go to hiring more police officers.
Of course there is the totally wrong assumption that managing an EMS system is just like managing a fire department. Different personalities, different response patterns, different skill sets, different cultures. Other than that, they are exactly the same.
The pattern of EMS – fire mergers is depressingly similar. Lot’s of promises of improvement in everything, lot’s of failure to actually deliver on those promises. Look at New York City, Washington, DC, or any number of other cities for proof. Other than some very small services, I’ve never seen a merger that delivered on any promises or improved patient care. Quite the opposite actually and lots of book cooking to make it appear that the merger was a success.