The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Hire More Paramedics in D.C.

Nov 26, 2012

Over the years, Washington, D.C. has cut back on paramedics. This shortage has led to forced overtime, with some paramedics working 36 hours in a row just to keep units on the streets. Paramedics who refuse department orders to work overtime, even if they are exhausted from working 24 hours straight, are put up on charges and disciplined.

What is the District’s solution to this dangerous problem? Eliminate night-shift paramedics!

D.C. fire chief Kenneth Ellerbe defended this plan stating: “What I will say is that we will have an ambulance that can respond.” That is, there will be a vehicle with perhaps an Emergency Medical Technician – but no paramedics.

Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), who make up the bulk of the first responders, cannot substitute for paramedics. Unlike EMTs, paramedics can use the most sophisticated defibrillators for patients in cardiac arrest, they can start IVs, push life-saving drugs like insulin and insert breathing tubes to help patients in respiratory distress.

They might as well be saying, “Put off that heart attack ‘til day shift!”