Philly firefighters union opposes paramedic staffing change

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The union representing Philadelphia firefighters and paramedics is worried a change in staffing could cause problems. 

The union objects to a city plan for replacing one of the two paramedics on ambulance runs with an emergency medical technician. The combination of one paramedic and one EMT isn’t as effective, said paramedic Dan Oakes, because EMTs are not trained to do everything a paramedic can do.

“You give oxygen, you can perform CPR  — but you can’t give medications, you can’t intubate a patient, you can’t do some of the more invasive techniques, decompressing a chest for lung-type injuries,” he said.

Fire Department Deputy Commissioner David Gallagher said such pairings of paramedic and EMT happen routinely now. By making it permanent, he said, it will expand the department’s capacity by adding up to eight ambulances at peak times.

“Every thing we are focusing on is an increase — increase in ambulances, increase in paramedic distribution, increase in total staffed units per day, seven days a week,” Gallagher said.

The change will be gradual and monitored to make sure it’s progressing smoothly, he added.

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