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Pittsburgh paramedics threatening to strike say firefighters aren't trained for 'delicate' rescues

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Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, 2:38 p.m.

The union representing 156 city paramedics who have authorized a strike said Wednesday its concerns over the safety of people who need to be rescued lie at the heart of its contract dispute.

Anthony Weinmann, president of Fraternal Association of Professional Paramedics Local No. 1, said firefighters cannot handle rescues by themselves because they haven't received sufficient medical training.

The city wants to transfer responsibility for rescues to firefighters to improve response times and free paramedics to focus on other medical calls.

“Rescues often involve delicate extrication efforts where paralysis or other severe medical complications can result,” Weinmann said in a prepared statement.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's office declined comment.

The union has been working under the terms of a contract that expired in 2010, but representatives said there are no immediate plans to strike and talks are continuing.

The city's contract proposal calls for one city team consisting of paramedics and firefighters to be used for the most difficult rescue operations. Firetrucks would be equipped to handle all other rescue operations.

More than half of the city's 600 firefighters are certified emergency medical technicians, and firefighters now respond along with paramedics to the scene of motor vehicle accidents.

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