Minimum Wage and EMS

Minimum Wage and EMS

Sep 2, 2014

Last night, one of the major EMS news outlets (I cannot find which one this morning) posted a question on Facebook asking “What effect will raising minimum wage have on EMS?”  Since we are days away from a planned strike of fast food workers, I felt like this was as good a time as any to take a look at the topic.  While part of me hopes that some news outlet other than The Onion will post the headline “Fast Food Workers Strike, Americans Forced to Eat Healthy” my opinions on this topic are not quite so tongue in cheek. If you follow me on Twitter, or are friends with me on Facebook you will learn pretty quickly that I am not a fan of our President and more specifically his policies.  I think the affordable care act has been a painful rollout and the promises made to appease those who opposed it, “if you like your plan you can keep your plan” specifically have been violated and scapegoated on the system itself rather than those who have set the now stringent regulations associated with the act.  Now, there is a considerable push from many to raise minimum wage as high as $15, a wage that many EMTs in the field currently do not make.  If this happens, the response by many EMS departments and companies might be surprising to some. Raising minimum wage is effectively a “war” on big business.  People want a bigger slice of the pie that currently goes to the upper echelon of companies or their stakeholders and shareholders.  This same structure exists in EMS but in many ways, we are handcuffed when it comes to how much money that we can make by the very people who are talking about raising the money that companies are expected to pay their workers.  Ambulance reimbursement is a constant hot button topic at lobbying events and with EMS advocacy groups and in leadership forums.  We, as an industry, are just getting by.  If you want proof of that, look no further than Rural Metro ambulance after they declared bankruptcy in 2013 and are now getting ready to shut down their failing Indiana division. Or,...

Let’s Train Them

CPR is increasingly becoming a requirement for high school graduation throughout the country, and personally I could not be happier.  I love seeing news stories about this topic. When we are dispatched to a cardiac arrest in our system, one of the first questions I ask myself is “is anyone doing CPR?”  I usually find that compressions are being done in about one out of every three “workable” cardiac arrests.  More times than not, the thing most often preventing CPR being done is the fact that the caller has difficulty getting the patient from where they are to the floor. The second most frequent one is that the caller is too scared or just unwilling or unable to do it because they are too hysterical.  I completely understand this.  EMS professionals walk into these situations with training and the expectation that they will be there to bring order to the chaos.  It is what we do.  It is part of who we are and what our profession is all about.  One cannot have that same expectation of the general public. Should a bystander be willing to do CPR, and they are untrained, they will get a crash course on the phone of how to do hands only CPR in the form of prearrival instructions from an Emergency Medical Dispatch certified person on the other end of the phone.  It is virtually impossible to make sure that the person on the other end of the phone is following the instructions as they should.  Of those one third that get compressions, probably half of them are done well.  The plus side though is something is better than nothing when it comes to cardiac arrest care. Here we sit in 2014 with a generation of people (that arguably I am on the older side of being part of) who are consumed by their cell phones.  People live in their phones, and use them to make potential medical emergencies someone else’s problem.  Gone are the days of people moving away from these sorts of things.  They call, and then they stand around to see what happens.  Rarely do people get involved and try to help.  We need to...

A Typical Call. . . A Follow Up

As a follow up to last week’s article about violence against EMS professionals, I wanted to share with everyone the state law that was passed in Delaware at the end of June. On June 30, the state of Delaware added “emergency medical technicians and paramedics” to a state law that makes “offensive touching” a class A misdemeanor.  To summarize the law, offensive touching is defined as “touching another person either with a member of his or her body or with any instrument, knowing that the person is thereby likely to cause offense or alarm to (the) other person. . . “  Interestingly enough, the law also includes “intentionally striking the other person with saliva, urine, feces, or any other bodily fluid” and mandates that a defendant be tested for “diseases transmittable through bodily fluids.”  In the state of Delaware, punishment for a class A misdemeanor could land someone in prison for up to a year, and could result in a fine up to $2,300. EMS advocates, services, and unions that represent EMS professionals should take note of this, and start laying the groundwork with their local law makers if laws similar to this do not already exist within their state.  This is a major victory for EMS professionals everywhere.  While laws such as this one do not make my job any safer persay, they do at least create greater consequences for those who choose to assault EMS professionals. Like I said, take note, share and advocate.  Our safety is no one’s responsibility but our own. Share...

Just a Typical Call. . .

Imagine if you will. . . It’s a typical day for you.   You came into work, just like any other shift, you got assigned your truck, and you hit the streets.  You did a few calls, here and there, mostly routine, you transported them, finished your paperwork for each, and got yourself back on the road.  Then, you are dispatched to a male in crisis. You arrive on scene, just like any other call to find the depressed, suicidal, and slightly intoxicated patient.  You put him on the stretcher, and place his bag on his lap and load him into the ambulance.  Initially, your patient is calm and cooperative, so you hop in back, sit on the bench seat, and get on your way to the city hospital, just like any other call. Without warning, the patient goes into his bag and pulls from it a black handgun.  A scuffle ensues, and you are able to disarm the patient, restrain him and finish the transport.  After removing your heart from your stomach, you inspect the gun and find it to be a BB gun.  Regardless though, you feared for your life, and you are assured that after being medically cleared, the patient will be dealt with by the proper authorities. This really happened to a good friend of mine.  Lucky for him and his family, he was fine.  The outcome of the patient, or rather the assailant, however, is unknown to me. Safety is a growing issue.  Recently, a Jersey City EMT had a knife pulled on them in the back of an ambulance.  They were able to dodge the first swipe, sustaining only a minor laceration, but the party they were transporting then impaled the knife in the EMT’s shoulder.  Fortunately, the injuries sustained by the EMT were not serious, and according to an article I read, they will be fine. An official in Jersey City made some eye opening comments in the article.  Robert Luckritz, the Director of Jersey City Medical Center Emergency Medical Services said that “some EMTs accept it as part of the job.”  He went on to add that “it is relatively common that EMTs are assaulted and it...

Advocacy: It’s That Time

Another year has gone by, and it is time for the third annual EMS on the Hill Day!  Unfortunately, I am not going to be participating this year, but that does not diminish the need to stress the importance of advocacy not just this week, but year round. There are decisions that need to be made that are not made by EMTs, paramedics, or their services’ leadership.  They are championed, led, and voted on by senators and congressmen who act largely on their gut, and information given to them by their staff.  It is our responsibility as a community to make sure that they are getting the right information.  While year-round advocacy is vital, EMS on the Hill Day gives us a chance to take Capitol Hill by storm and share with them in one unified voice to talk to our representatives and lawmakers about issues that are important to us and our future. Take a look at this video from NAEMT about last year’s EMS on the Hill Day.  And yes, that’s me. Share...

Occupy EMS 2.0

Over the last month, I have been trying to follow the Occupy Wall Street movement.  I say “trying” because I have a tough time figuring out what their unified message really is.  Their communication attempts with the public have been highly ineffective and fractured.  No one seems to want to speak for the group, and all that seems to keep coming out is “down with big business!” Ironically, most of what I have read has been via social media through Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.  I must say, I find it rather amusing to see someone send a Tweet out about how bad corporate America is, and on the bottom of the box on Tweetdeck, it reads “Sent via Twitter for iPhone.”  That’s right: this person who is bad mouthing corporate America is paying a monthly bill to it to be able to share their message. Change takes time and efforts.  One Tweet I saw that I found to be particularly interesting was one that read: “I was promised a job, go to college, get a job is the promise, I did my part.”  If a person wants real accomplishment they cannot sit back and expect it to be handed to them on a silver platter.  There is a certain level of personal responsibility that comes along with it and sometimes things take a little more work than expected.  You cannot always expect people to meet you half way.  Sometimes, you need to go a little farther. Much like Occupy Wall Street, EMS 2.0 is a grass roots “bottom up” movement spearheaded by street providers to try and enhance their ability to do their job.  I think that there some important lessons that those of us who are invested in EMS 2.0 can take from what I feel are some glaring failures of the Occupy Wall Street movement: 1.  Have a message — Don’t just blindly demand change.  Know what you are asking for, and have someone who is willing to step forward and speak for the group.  Show your numbers, but have a plan! 2.  Don’t demand change, make it — Far too often, we look at those around us and above us and...

The Day History was Made

History was made this week in our Nation’s Capital. EMS week might still be more then a week away, but on May 4th, we had what could be best described as our “E-Day.” It was EMS on the Hill Day in Washington DC, and although I didn’t make it there in the capacity that I wanted to, I can say I was there. The nearly 6 hour drive was worth the lack of sleep, and the time away from home as I had the opportunity to meet some great people, namely Natalie (MsParamedic), Jeramiah (Jeramedic), and Matt (Squirrel325). The bonds that I created with this group in the short time was a great testimony of the passion that we all share for this field that we are involved in. The first annual EMS on the Hill Day was an event sponsored by the National Association of EMTs intended to give interested EMS professionals a chance to network with each other and more importantly it was a chance to advocate for some issues that were carefully chosen by the organization’s leadership. There were three of them, but the two main ones were the Medicaid/Medicare reimbursement rates, and the establishment of a fund for the families of EMS Professionals who suffer line of duty deaths. In my opinion, they did a great job picking these topics. If they set their sights on more controversial issues, then as a group we ran the risk of seeing too eager at this first event. NAEMT, however, made the right choice and helped establish the credibility of our profession. The event, as described by Jeramedic was attended by about 140 Representatives from 40 states, and there were some big names in attendance. KC Jones, a ground braking EMS educator was there, and so was past NAEMT President Kenneth Bouvier from Louisiana. I am proud to say that according to my friends who attended the event after “E-Day” both of these EMS Icons were wearing EMS 2.0 Pins! There was also even a Gary Wingrove siting! The one common thread that I found in everything that I read after the event was it was a huge success, and a great job...

Making Your Own Thunder

May 1st is upon folks, and it is going to be a big month for many of us. Next week marks the first annual EMS on the Hill day, sponsored by NAEMT. What is EMS on the Hill Day, you ask? Its a chance for you, the provider, and the advocate to go to Washington, DC and speak with your representatives in Congress about the issues and challenges that you face every day. Although I am not going to be able to attend the actual EMS on the Hill events, I am making the trip to DC to meet up with some great people involved in The Movement: mainly Miss Paramedic and Jeramedic, and I can’t wait! Two weeks from now, EMS week will kick off. Here’s our chance to get the word out there even more about who we are. Contact your local papers, and media, and let them know if you are planning any EMS week events! Personally, I will be attending the Chronicles of EMS 3-City meetup in Philadelphia on the 16th, and participating in an EMS Banquet on the 18th to honor our local EMS Heros, and I’ll be attending any events my boss decides to put together. I feel, though, that its time for me to throw the challenge out there. Its time for all of us to make our own Thunder. Thats a phrase that was coined by (I believe) Ms Paramedic, and Steve Whitehead. What does that mean? Its quite simple, actually, put the word out there about EMS 2.0, the Chronicles of EMS and our profession in general. Let people know that we are here. Create a little rumble, and watch the storm grow. Jim Hoffman, “The EMS Professional” (@EMSSafe on Twitter) has already gotten off to a great start. Check out this link about his EMS Week 2010 giveaway: http://ems-safety.com/emsweek2010.htm. Maybe its time that we all follow Jim’s lead. Break out those EMS 2.0 pins, and those Chronicles of EMS t-shirts and show your colors. Do you live in Philadelphia, Chicago, or San Francisco? Come out to the Meetup and meet some great people. Ultimately though, lets take EMS Week and make it the best...

Where Do We Belong?

  Before I get to the meat and potatoes of this blog I feel I should firs clarify a few things. The fire departments in this country are staffed by some of the hardest working most highly skilled professionals I’ve had the pleasure of working with.They risk their lives everyday, and put others before themselves without a second thought.If I could shake each of their hands and thank each of them personally for that I would. Their job is a very important one, and they are an essential piece of the Public Safety model in this country. Over the past 30 years, Fire Suppression and more importantly Fire Prevention has greatly improved nation wide.Fires are down almost everywhere you go.Fire inspection regulations and building codes have become more strict.Fire Fighters are better trained and better prepared to do their jobs than they ever have been.They have achieved their desired result: less fires.Now, with less fires, the question that comes up is “what do we do with all of these fire fighters?”You now have all of these municipal employees doing so much less work at higher wages than they’ve been paid in the past.The result: find more work for them or lay them off. None of this should be viewed as the Fire Departments’ fault.The blame should be placed (dare I say) on our local and state Politicians who stare at spread sheets all day and worry about the all mighty dollar.Lets face it, if Fire Prevention wasn’t what it is, and Crime was instead exponentially down, Ambulances would be driving around with the words “Police Department” on the side of them.The Cash Cow that is the ambulance business would be moved to which ever department was in the bigger budget crisis. Getting back to the problem at hand though, the answer to budget shortfalls has been simple for many departments: Respond to Medical Calls, either in a first response capacity or take over the ambulance.Lets face it, Ambulance runs mean volume and money.Money means jobs.Its a no brainer, right? Wrong.The result in some of our largest cities has been to put a band aid on a sucking chest wound.Take a look at these examples...