Days after announcing cuts to the Fire Department that include the elimination of 30 ambulance tours this summer, the head of the EMS Union is speaking out and warning that it could cost lives. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.
Round the clock day and night, about 250 ambulances operated by the fire department are on duty all over the city, ready to respond to all kinds of medical emergencies.In an internal memo obtained by NY1 last week, the department plans to eliminate 30 of those ambulance tours, effective July 1, to save money. Now, the president of the union that staffs those ambulances warns that's a bad idea.

"When you reduce the number of ambulances available, you drive up the response time, and somebody will die. Somebody's gonna die," said EMS Union President Patrick Bahnken.

Bahnken says this is the worst possible time to cut back since EMS call volume goes up significantly during economic downturns -- a result of people losing their jobs and their health insurance which leads to people not being able to afford medications. He also says anger and frustration lead to spikes in violence that result in more ambulance calls.

The FDNY's own statistics show EMS responded to an all-time high of 1.2 million 911 calls in 2008. That's 100,000 more than in 2003, with the number of calls increasing every year since then.

At any given time, about 20 percent of EMS tours are staffed by personnel working overtime, which the department is hoping to eliminate. The department and the union agree the tours that are cut will likely be picked up by private ambulance companies, although union leaders say that's not a real solution.

"It's a knee-jerk response that ignores a lot of other problems that are created by it. Hospital-based ambulances bring patients back to the hospitals they work for," said Bahnken.

Bahnken says private ambulances like Transcare hurt the bottom line for the city's public hospitals, which lose out on patients and Medicaid and Medicare revenues. He says reducing ambulance tours could have a detrimental impact on public safety.

"I shudder to think that we go back to the 1986, 1987 period when people with major medical emergencies were waiting for 10 minutes or better for an ambulance," said Bahnken.

The FDNY insists the budget cuts have not been finalized and says it plans to meet with the EMS union February 17 to discuss the budget.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Union president,

Its time to get past where any ambulance service takes the patients. Your thoughts are old, and need to be more thought out. The fact is, there are barely any hospitals even left in NYC, and the ones that are left, are stuffed to the giles with sick people. Its sad that your own people still dont make enough money to have a decent home, or have to work OT to make ends meet. This business is very unforgiving, and has no memory. A new EMT/Medic thinks he is better than or smarter than someone who has years of street time. Focus on lifting moral in your ranks, and your members not being mandated. Not where a patient goes..

Anonymous said...

Does it really matter WHERE the abm. bringin the patient???As long as the patient ended up in the ED ...And by the way municipal units steering patients to the HHC hospitals / where their battalions are ../ more then private hosp based units ever imagine ..Not counting the "ghost" units EMS supevisors kee in service , untill first job , that they "advise" the dipsp. unit went OTP long time before they actually put that unit out...

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr.Banken,

What ever happened to the west side station?
I think the community should be informed of the lies.
How about the ghost units? Please tell the community if the response times went down and show the in service times of the units.

Thank you for your time.