Columbus Residents Could See Fewer Medics Responding To Emergency Calls

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UPDATED: Thursday September 5, 2013 6:45 PM

An experiment at two of the city's fire stations to send fewer paramedics to less serious calls was put on hold Thursday after concerns from the fire fighters union.

Officials with the Columbus Division of Fire say as the city's population grows, its EMS runs have doubled.

So, the department wants to test out sending fewer paramedics to see if reducing the number of paramedics and fire vehicles that respond to low-priority emergencies will reduce overtime costs and help with the shortage of paramedics.

But the firefighters union says it will risk lives.

When a call goes out, Firefighter Union President Jack Reall says you never know what you're going to get.

"It could be a life-threatening run or a non life-threatening run.

Reall says with two paramedics on board, there's a better chance of being prepared for the most serious calls.

He says a plan to replace one of those paramedics with a lesser trained Emergency Medical Technician, or an EMT, is a mistake.

"The overriding concern for us is we are going to send a single paramedic to an incident that is going to require two, or three, paramedics to function appropriately,” said Reall

Fire officials admit that EMTs do not have the training to do some of the lifesaving things a paramedic can do but say that 70 percent of runs are for non-life threatening calls.

Assistant Chief Karry Ellis says if it is life-threatening, back up will be sent out.

“An ALS Engine, which has a paramedic on it, will respond, and an EMS supervisor Lieutenant will respond,” said Ellis said.

Ellis says this would only be tested out at Station 6, just off state Route 161 on the north side, and Station 10, on West Broad Street in Franklinton, for 90 days.

According to Ellis, this doesn't mean the department is about to change the entire way it responds to calls.

"Until we try this, we really don't have any data to go on to say what is a better way of doing things," said Ellis

Reall disagrees

"They are going to try it, we all know that. And we are going to have cardiac arrests that are going to be responded to with an understaffed vehicle,” said Reall.

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