Should FD’s assist private ambulances?

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a tremendous debate taking place at Life Under the Lights page.  The debate centers around whether fire departments should assist private ambulance services.

Why did this debate come up?  It’s a response to an incident from Springfield, IL where the FD refused to give assistance to a private ambulance service bringing home a 700-lb patient from the hospital.  As you can imagine, the topic has started quite the comment storm. Check out the full blog post here, and definitely don’t forget to read through the comments.

I desperately want to throw in my two cents.  I however am struggling internally with where I fall on the issue.  A big part of me finds it heinous that a fire department would refuse service to one of its taxpayers.  Several of the commenters though have good arguments on why the private ambulance should have planned the trip rather then relying on a publicly funded service.

Join the discussion and let the world know your thoughts.


About Josh

I am the Recruitment & Retention Coordinator for the Boone County Fire Protection District.
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5 Responses to Should FD’s assist private ambulances?

  1. JLB says:

    I haven’t really encountered this during my volunteer FD/EMS experience…yet…but I can see the perspectives of each side here. I don’t think any private EMS service should abuse the use of their FD counterparts anywhere, but requesting lifting assistance every once in a while shouldn’t really be an issue (as long as it’s done w/ providers’ safety (i.e., backs) in mind). But if you start a private ambo service recognizing that you’ll be caring for morbidly obese pt’s and think “oh, I’ll save some money by calling the FD instead of planning this thing better”, you should rethink your priorities. The notion of an FD flat-out refusing to assist a taxpayer/citizen for something that is clearly w/in their capabilities, however, doesn’t sit well with me. But again, if pressed, you gotta follow your SOP’s…

  2. CRW says:

    No the fire service should not help private EMS with pts. I have encountered this with my FD and we have assisted but I feel it is ridiculous to take a FD unit out of service to assist with lifting or moving of a PT. I used to work for a private EMS transfer company on the side that was owned/operated by 3 firefighters from my FD and if we needed more manpower we would send a second unit to assist. It is a complete waist of fire department resources to assist private EMS with NON emergency lifting and moving of patients.

  3. Patrick says:

    I’m too lazy to wade into the (very long) thread over on LUTL, but I will say that I think a fire department taking that assignment would be engaging in grossly unethical behavior. That is essentially a request for taxpayers to subsidize a private for-profit company just because the company had the temerity to ask for it.

  4. “I’m too lazy to wade into the extremely long thread over at LUTL”?

    Well, honestly… if the conversation hadn’t have buzzed on my blackberry a total of 97 times so far I would have had some trouble too. As it stands, I was excited, elated, and exhausted.

    However, I disagree with you on your statement that it would be unethical for the FD to help the private ambulance. For one, the patient was a taxpaying resident of the SFD’s area. That paid for it. For another, I’m familiar with Mercy Ambulance and I know that they assist within the ambulance mutual aid system, and the MABAS system in their local area (which is close to mine). They do this with no consideration provided to them, just a willingness to help.

    People need help. The system is flawed. We are all EMS/Public Safety/Fire/Whatever and we’re all people. The FD, The Ambulance, and other like services exist to serve.

    Mercy Ambulance is culpable for providing improper planning. The SFD is culpable for not willing to help out their citizen. Poor behavior all around.

    At any rate, the sheer magnitude of the discussion and opinions provided within it has made me consider more angles than I did at first… it probably will you as well. You should read it all. Bring a snack.

  5. Patrick says:

    I will sit down and digest it all in the next couple of days. Having not participated thus far, I can only offer my virgin opinion.

    I think the “taxpaying citizen” argument is specious. The reality is that using the fire department in this manner is unfair to the overwhelming majority of taxpayers. It is essentially providing home health services at the public expense simply because on citizen was bold enough to ask. This is where the “customer service” ethos can lead if not checked with more traditional notions of fire service scope and responsibility.

    The unethical part comes in when the taxpayers are asked to provide uncompensated input to a profit-seeking operation.

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