When Chatham-Kent Council considers the future of emergency medical services next Monday, it will need to bring a heightened sense of focus to the deliberations.
The issue has been one of the more contentious of late with plenty of side arguments to draw politicians’ attention away from the real matter at hand.
In a report to council last month, Fire and Paramedic Chief Ken Stuebing outlined three options: outsourcing the services as is currently being done, bringing it in house as a separate department or blending fire and EMS services.
Though he hasn’t formally endorsed one, its clear Stuebing believes the blended system is the best in terms of service and financial value.
There’s nothing wrong with that. Stuebing is paid for his opinion and has an impressive list of credentials as a paramedic and firefighter to back him up.
Even as such, he is an employee and follows council’s direction.
A side issue cropped up when Stuebing objected to paramedics wearing their uniforms while petitioning against a blended service.
While he was technically justified, it came off as heavy handed and appeared to suggest a double standard since Stuebing wears his uniform while representing the municipality.
Nevertheless, it shouldn’t be part of the final discussion.
Neither should the opinions of those on the paramedic side that oppose change because they like the current system.
Status quo is not guaranteed to anyone in the community, regardless of the work they do.
There are special interests here among some paramedics and firefighters who do both jobs thanks to overly flexible work schedules. Under Proposal C, the “double dipping” in municipal jobs may disappear.
That too, isn’t council’s problem.
That dual role currently undertaken by many also punctures a hole in the theory that the two skill sets are so separate as to be impossible for one person to master.
Of some concern is how the municipality is going to add 65 full-time firefighters (with higher pay than paramedics) and save the community money.
Those figures need to be examined from every direction. Chatham-Kent has been far too forgiving when financial benchmarks for plans and projects have been brought to council and then discarded.
There isn’t room for an “oops” here.
Council needs to focus clearly not on the needs of the fire chief, firegfighters or paramedics but on the public at large.
It’s the only way for councillors to fulfill their duty.
While I agree that councilors must fulfill their duties to the taxpayer and always think of the financial implications of their decisions, I also think they cannot lose sight of the health and safety of the citizens of Chatham Kent. Sometimes what appears on paper to be the best decision but impacts the services that the public receive is not the best decision.
It is easy to say that because there are fire fighters and paramedics who are currently cross trained that the blended system will work. These paramedics who volunteer their time to local fire departments do it on their off hours. Fire fighters who are trained as paramedics do not use their skills as paramedics when they are fighting fires. Who looses out when they are doing both jobs? Does the home burn down so that the home owner can get to the hospital or does the home owner suffer while they save the house. With Option C, the actual number of paramedics will decrease in Chatham Kent, so how do we provide the current level of service with less people. Remember the old adage " you get what you pay for, if it looks to good to be true it usually is"
Well said. Whats being lost in this disscussion is the cost of adding these fulltime firefighter medidics which will make firefighter wages, have firefighter benifits and firefighter pensions. Currently Paramedics make much lower wages and have much cheaper benifit plans and pensions. In fact what Ken Stuebings isint telling council is how the fire budget has ballooned in cities like Winnipeg where a blended Paramedic Firefighter model is employed. Stuebings has also left out that in many communities vonluteer firefighters have replaced costly full time fire. So…. if the current EMS system is overwhelmed why not lay off costly full time firefighters, replace them with volunteers and put more badly needed ambulances on the road. This exact thing was just done in the city of Sault ste Marie last year. Please present council with all the optiuons and facts Chief Stuebings! Not just the one you want!