READY TO ROLL

READY TO ROLL

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

MEDIC SHORTAGE

From Sun-Gazette
Sept. 9, 2008

A plan to augment Arlington County's seven emergency-medical services (EMS) ambulances with an eighth unit for peak times will have to wait until the government's budget situation improves.

Fire officials had hoped to bring the unit into service over the summer, but pulled back the idea due to “serious budget constraints,” Fire Chief James Schwartz said.

The proposed eighth unit, which would have operated weekdays when the system is most overloaded, was not included in the fiscal 2009 budget adopted by the County Board. But, given an increasingly high level of service calls, Schwartz earlier this year tried to find a way to add it.

“I tried to see if it was possible to create the additional unit with existing resources,” Schwartz told the Sun Gazette. “I ultimately determined that it wasn't possible.”

Schwartz cited increasing personnel costs, due to higher-than-anticipated turnover, for his decision to scrap the proposed eighth unit. He said he will wait until the fiscal 2010 budget process to request the new medic unit.

The extra unit has long been sought by some safety advocates and the Arlington Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association, which represents many firefighters.

They point to “paramedic burnout” and the increasing number of times that the county government runs out of available medic units over the course of the year.