Dallas Paramedic Staffing Concerns

Consultant recommends adding 30 peak time ambulances for city of Dallas

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A consultant study of Dallas Fire Rescue recommends adding 30 peak time ambulances staffed by civilian paramedics to handle growing emergency medical service demand.

At a city council Public Safety Committee briefing last month, Dallas Fire Rescue officials said they disagree with some of the consultant’s recommendations but that everything is under review to make a good system even better.

“We’re one of the busiest EMS systems in the United states, one of the most complex EMS Systems in the United States,” said EMS Medical Director Dr. Marshal Isaacs said. “There are a lot of additional efficiencies that the department and the city need to look at to best serve the community and be good stewards of scarce resources and scare dollars.”

Dallas Fire Rescue paramedics are all certified firefighters who’ve completed training at the Dallas Fire Academy.

Dallas has 58 fire stations, 42 of them staffed with a rescue ambulance. Records show 80% of the calls are for emergency medical service. The ambulances are very busy.

Dallas Firefighters Association President Jim McDade said six ambulances are currently assigned to peak hour response from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and later on weekends.

McDade agreed that EMS needs more resources but disagreed that so many peak hour shifts would be a good solution.

“When you use their data to only put people in service at certain times, when you have a tornado roll through in the middle of the night or you have some sort of tragic event occur, you don’t have resources available. So, that’s why we believe our model is the best model and that’s why a majority of cities use a fire based EMS System,” McDade said.

Additionally, the firefighters union president opposes hiring civilian paramedics.

“You’re going to have a constant stream of people who are not the best quality of paramedics,” McDade said.

Tarrant County’s MedStar ambulances are staffed with civilian paramedics who transport patients while city firefighters remain in their neighborhoods.

Instead of going to every EMS call, for years MedStar had nurses available in the call center to speak with people about less urgent matters.

Dallas Fire Rescue officials have said they are pursuing nurses on the phone as an alternative for some of their EMS response.

MedStar is planning to switch from nurses to sending telemedicine to patient homes that would also reduce transporting people to busy hospitals.

McDade said he supports those alternative approaches in Dallas, but not civilian paramedics.

“Our EMS system needs EMS. But civilians, 100% not the answer,” McDade said.

Dallas Fire Rescue Chief Dominique Artis declined an interview request because current city budget deliberations are still pending on many of these issues. 

His spokesman confirmed that the August City Council briefing that said changes are being considered is still accurate.

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