A year-old plan to cross-train Alexandria firefighters and paramedics and add a fourth person to every firetruck is encountering resistance from city paramedics, who say it is unworkable unless the city hires more staff.
Alexandria Fire Chief Robert Dubé said that his plan will ensure that at least one person in every fire crew will be certified in advanced life support. Since firetrucks are usually the first to arrive at a scene, he said the change will provide better service to residents who need emergency medical care.
But paramedics, who specialize in advanced life support, say the proposal will actually dilute the care they provide, while also preventing promotions for those who don’t cross-train. They say the city’s plan will also force paramedics to work one-third more hours for only 10 to 20 percent more pay and change retirement plans. Their objections have raised enough attention that the city last week produced a colorful illustrated poster and news release describing the plan in detail. Dubé plans to brief the City Council on Tuesday night on how the transition is going.
The Alexandria squabble is typical when fire departments and emergency medical services begin combining roles, said Barbara L. Klingensmith, who teaches management, leadership and EMS courses for the University of Florida and the National Fire Academy.