Over at JEMS Connect there is a discussion going on about the Pittsburgh EMS incident.
Frankly, most of the comments are as I’d expect, pretentious. I’ll get to that in a minute.
JEMS perpetuates the myth that Paramedic Josie Dimon was fire for swearing on the radio. First, she wasn’t on the radio, she was on a cell phone with communications. Second swearing on the radio is not a termination offense in any system I’m familiar with. Certainly people have been disciplined for it, but termination is excessive unless the person has a long disciplinary history.
The comments don’t dwell on that aspect, so it’s not that huge a deal. Nor do the commenters seem to have a really good grasp of the what the problem with PEMS.
One commenter, Ben Waller, misrepresents what I and Rogue Medic have said on this subject. When I say that this is a systemic problem, I mean that this is a management problem. It’s pretty clear, at least to me, that management failed to plan for extreme weather. This was not a question of medics being too lazy to do their job. From every report I’ve read, they were doing back to back calls all shift long. In fact, after digging out from the Curtis Mitchell call, they were immediately dispatched to another call. Nor was this a problem with third service systems, since we see far more of this sort of thing with fire based systems. Whether or not it’s a problem with all ALS systems, I’m not prepared to comment on.
What this clearly is however, is a failure of city management to prepare for a extreme weather event. Yes, I know I’m repeating myself, but this fact bears repeating.
Despite all the blather over at JEMS Connect, no one seems to really express this. This is not a matter of just walking ten minutes and saying hello to the patient, several other factors have to be considered.
What equipment are PEMS medics required to bring to the patient? Monitor? Medication kit? Primary bag? Conveyance device? Oxygen?
How is that equipment organized on PEMS rigs?
How would they get the patient back to the ambulance if he couldn’t walk?
Remember also that there was more than one call back to the Mitchell residence, at least one of them by a doctor. The crew didn’t give up, they were canceled by dispatch after the phone consultation.
Would sending the fire department have helped? Maybe having more hands would have been beneficial, but maybe not.
Sadly, most people will be content with the city terminating one person and disciplining three more. No one will want to look under the hood and fix the underlying management problems in Pittsburgh. My guess is that this sort of mismanagement goes far beyond just the EMS system.