SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - A call to the Spokane Fire Department for medical help may soon be answered by a single medic in an SUV instead of a crew in a fire truck.
City administrators and the Spokane Firefighters Union announced an agreement Monday to try the one-person units for calls that are likely to be non-life-threatening.
The solo responses will be tested for six-months starting in September under the existing $45 million budget, using already trained paramedics and driving three SUVs the department already owns, The Spokesman-Review reported ( http://bit.ly/13i9RRc).
"We really think that given six months to evaluate and work together, that we can come up with a program that works for everybody," said Don Waller, fire union president. "It puts us on a path to find a solution for the citizens."
The deal resulted from negotiations to resolve an unfair labor practice complaint that Local 29 of the International Association of Fire Fighters filed with the state Public Employment Relations Commission. The union had challenged the city's decision to send three-person fire engine companies to medical calls in SUVs or ambulances instead of trucks.
Spokane, like most fire departments, sent firefighters to all medical calls in fire trucks so that they could respond to fires without having to return to a station. Administrators argued that the volume for medical aid had grown so much that they could no longer justify sending engines to every call.
Fire Chief Bobby Williams said 50 or more kinds of calls can be handled by the new one-person units. They include sore throats that don't involve breathing problems, rashes and some kinds of falls.
The concept is based on a program started in 2010 by the Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue District in suburban Portland, Williams said.
Medical calls in Spokane are up between 5 and 10 percent this year, he said.
"I'm glad that everybody was willing to give this a shot," Williams said. "I don't see our call volume going down."
Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com
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