Leaders eye shift in rescue service in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh leaders want to end a long-standing contract impasse with unionized paramedics this year that the previous mayor described as a public safety risk.
The dispute centers on who responds to crashes that require rescue operations. Former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Pittsburgh's financial overseers wanted to move the responsibility from paramedics to the fire bureau, saying firefighters can respond faster to life-threatening crashes and other incidents.
Paramedics contend they are better trained and capable of performing lifesaving techniques.
Ralph Sicuro, vice president of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1, said the union agreed to take on more duties.
“This is a territorial battle. There's no doubt about it,” Sicuro said. “One of the things that's always stated about this is we're taking over that service, and that's never going to happen. You need paramedics to do this work.”
On average last year, it took paramedics nearly eight minutes and firefighters four minutes to arrive at the scene of emergency calls, according to response time statistics provided by the city.
Mayor Bill Peduto wouldn't say whether his administration plans to insist, as the Ravenstahl administration did, on transferring the duty to firefighters, but said he wants the best possible rescue service.
“We have to look at ways to provide the service better than we now do,” Peduto said.
The city has contacted the Fraternal Association of Professional Paramedics Local 1 to begin contract negotiations but has not scheduled a meeting, according to Mark Bocian, Emergency Medical Services director.
Paramedics union President Anthony Weinmann did not return several messages.
Ian Frankel, a paramedic with 37 years of service, said he suspects the city's position changed under Peduto, noting that paramedics were the only city public safety union to endorse him in last year's election.
“We have a little bit of favor with him now,” Frankel said.
Peduto said there will be no quid pro quo.
Public Safety Director Mike Huss, who declined to comment, previously said the city wanted to transfer rescue operations to firefighters to improve response times and free paramedics to focus on medical emergencies. The city has about 160 paramedics. There are about 600 firefighters.
EMS calls are increasing, Huss said, and the city wanted to address the problem without hiring more employees.
Dispatchers send fire and EMS to accident scenes, but only paramedics can perform rescue operations such as cutting a vehicle away from occupants. City firefighters are certified as emergency medical technicians and are capable of providing basic lifesaving measures.
Pittsburgh is not alone in seeking to merge some EMS and firefighter duties. Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson's administration is negotiating with unions to merge the two services, spokesman Daniel Ball said. The Cleveland firefighters union last month voted against the move.
Cincinnati merged fire and EMS services in the 1980s, fire Capt. Chris Miller said.
“The benefit, I think, is to the citizens because firefighters are there within two to three minutes,” Miller said.
Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pittsburgh region’s philanthropic sector at top of nation’s pack
- Mt. Lebanon puts temporary halt on deer kill
- Merged United Way to reveal 5-year plan aimed at Western Pa. children
- 7 percent in Allegheny County able to carry concealed gun
- School bus heavily damaged in Homewood fire
- Group reports ethnically charged comments in Moroccan taxi driver’s Hazelwood shooting
- Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh gets $500K estate gift
- Lane restrictions announced for portion of Route 28
- Reliability of DNA evidence — vomit found near Mt. Oliver murder scene — doubted in trial
- Woman shot in shoulder during McKeesport fight
- PennDOT details closings as work continues on Parkway West