Fire-Medic Proposal Is Suspect


Why do you want to send a fire service pumper truck to a medical emergency … unless the victim is horribly dehydrated.

The Ottawa Professional Fire Fighters Association wants to test a fire-medic model that would see trained fire personnel attend medical emergencies.

That’s interesting.

The media recently has been covering the fact that Ottawa paramedics are so strapped with calls that ambulances are being called from other jurisdictions to this area. Certainly the aging demographic is putting more pressure on the city’s paramedic service.

Local paramedics responded to 137,953 calls. Fire fighters covered 24,002 incidents of which 17 per cent were medical emergencies.

Perhaps that tells you why the fire service wants to do more medical calls. We don’t have as many fires as we used to.

Your agent doesn’t know what is the proper size for a fire service but it seems certain that paramedics will need more people as baby boomers enter their high health-care years.

Think for a moment. Do you ask for more work if you are overworked?

Emergency and protective services general manager Anthony Di Monte, a good man, needs to tackle this extremely difficult staffing problem.

You want highly trained fire fighters to handle the very worthwhile work for which they have prepared. Same goes for paramedics. Accordingly the fire-medic proposal is dubious. Di Monte is guarded in his response to the issue but it appears he isn’t keen on the fire-medic proposal. Neither is the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

The future need in the community seems to indicate that paramedics will become very valuable.

Di Monte needs to take a close look at his personnel situation and decide how many fire fighters he needs and how many paramedics he will need in the future.


Video above: Ottawa fire fighters in action.

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9 thoughts on “Fire-Medic Proposal Is Suspect

  1. Unless the fire folks are going to go to college for several years to be trained as paramedics, let’s just stick with what we have.

    How many people want a person with a quick survey course in medicine coming to respond to their medical emergency? The purpose of having upgraded our ‘ambulance drivers’ to ‘paramedics’ a number of years ago was so that the person who arrives at your door can begin medical treatment immediately. In many cases, that fast start to treatment can literally be the difference between life and death.

    I don’t want a paramedic turning up to put out the fire in my house and the reverse goes for firefighters treating my heart attack. When a firefighter is wheeled into the OR, do they want to find out that their heart surgery is going to be done by a dentist with a few weekend courses in surgery?


  2. Let’s hope this issue does not turn into an ‘us’ versus ‘them’.

    Let’s hope this issue does not become overwhelmed, bashed about and decided upon as a political issue. Staffing, equipment, logistics, demographics.

    Determining what kind of emergency is a critical initial assessment which makes dispatch a crucial part of the system. Setting up the spreading of people and equipment to key points in the city is another aspect. Setting up different kinds of response teams is needed.

    Car crashes might mean anything from jaws of life to back boards to fire control. Send one type of team to that type of event. A building fire might need a different type of team.

    A heart attack doesn’t need a fire hose.

    Fires need a paramedic/fire team with equipment because any fire (or potential fire) may mean burns and smoke inhalation for either a firefighter or an occupant.

    A paramedic team doesn’t need a fire hose to handle an event that doesn’t involve fire.

    If someone calls because of a 100 per cent medical emergency, I don’t think the hook-and-ladder truck needs to be dispatched and I would doubt that the fire department would want that.

    If someone calls about smoke in the attic then perhaps the fire station should have a medic with equipment and a firefighter on the truck. If transport is required, it can be called for when the situation is accessed.

    Fire and smoke ( or potential for same ) should mean fire fighting/medical but not necessarily transport.
    Heart attack should mean medic and transport only.

    Where the people are stationed is a matter of geography.

    And, while we’re at it, do all situations require police? I have witnessed quite a few situations where the police seem to be dispatched for no reason. The fire experts should ask for police presence and the ambulance should call for police presence only if required.

    Again, the dispatch system needs to stream line what type of service is required and where is the closest appropriate team. Make it a team effort from start to finish. Best case might be one combined union under one department, but then, who is going to want to give up their empire?



    1. Chaz:

      Thank you for this.

      This is a very detailed response and a lot of work.

      But what is at stake here is the fire-medic option. What do you think of that?




      1. Ken.
        I think that a fire or a car crash, with the potential of fire, needs a fire unit that has a fully trained and equipped paramedic ( medic with exactly the same training as an ambulance has ) on board. Having a medic on hand with the fire truck saves sending an ambulance that may not be needed. An ambulance may not be required and shouldn’t be dispatched. Transportation is not usually going to save anyone. Transportation of someone with a broken bone ,etc. doesn’t require an ambulance; a car ride to the hospital can handle a stable victim.That’s why ambulances rushing through red lights and speeding to the hospital is a picture from the past.


    2. Chaz,
      Fire and paramedics are already part of the same City department and both report to Tony Di Monte, possibly one reason he’s not tipping his hand yet, although they belong to different unions.

      It would be very easy to amalgamate the two services administratively. There are other city departments with more than one union representing different groups of employees. I know of several cities in the States with an EMS that includes both services and co-locates the ambulance and fire truck outposts.

      It would be ‘unusual’ if part of this whole discussion weren’t based on turf considerations and a proud history (which they’re certainly entitled to revere) but that can’t be a basis for rational decision-making. Not that I think for a minute that it will influence his actions but Di Monte came up through the paramedic service.


  3. My initial reaction when this spat became public was that it was a dispute between two unions, acting to protect or expand their turf. Nothing I have read since has changed my mind.


  4. If the deal wants to re-purpose fire fighters because of a diminishing work load, then it isn’t a good enough reason in my opinion. If fire fighters want to go through the same training as paramedics, then let’s talk about better use of resources. But if they want to do the work of paramedics with a fraction of the training, no thank you…


  5. The current proposal is for a study regarding having a fire-medic service and Ottawa is being suggested as the locale for the study. Such a study can not be of any worth if it is being done without adequate numbers of trained persons in the fire service, something this municipality does not have.

    According to a study recently done by Di Monte, and mentioned in our newspapers, our municipality has 1,500 volunteer and full-time firefighters out of which SIX are trained to Ontario’s paramedic licensing standards. We know that paramedics are awaiting the authorization and hiring of 20 more paramedics which will help but will still not give them proper numbers. I doubt there is a municipality in Ontario that has the numbers.

    Before doing a study, improve the quality and standard of personnel we have, then a study would have some worth.


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