D.C. Fire and EMS changes policy to address paramedic shortage

WASHINGTON (WJLA){ }-{ }The D.C. Fire Department and EMS is changing a long-standing policy to address a shortage in paramedics. Until recently, the policy was to hire paramedics who are also firefighters, but now the Department is hiring employees who just want to be paramedics.

“This is something that’s been embraced by the Council, by the mayor, by the fire chief himself,” says Dabney Hudson, vice president of the D.C. Firefighters Union. “I think ultimately this is going to do a disservice to our ability to respond to calls.”

According to Chief Ellerbe’s office, he is seeking 25 single role paramedics, and so far has received between 125 and 130 applications. The Ambulance Union, which represents paramedics and EMTs who don’t work on fire trucks,{ }embraces the change.

“We have a need for paramedics and we meet that need if we don’t require these individuals to become firefighters because we don’t need firefighters,” says Kenneth Lyons, president of the D.C. Ambulance Union.

The International Association of Firefighters Friday weighed in on the side of the firefighters for dual role paramedics. It put out a report Thursday that showed D.C. had 130,000 calls for service annually and only 35 paramedics available at any given time, way under comparable cities.

“[Washington] is the worst EMS system of all metropolitan cities in the United States,” says Lori Moore-Merrill, a researcher with the International Association of Fire Fighters.

But Lyons rejects the report’s conclusions.

“I think that report is a disservice to the District of Columbia.”