Lives on the line? Petersburg unveils safety plan after losing 10 paramedics

Lives on the line? Petersburg unveils safety plan after losing 10 paramedics

PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) - Petersburg is drafting a plan to keep you safe after 10 part-time paramedics recently parted ways with the city.

The part-timers came on board within the last couple of years as a cost-savings measure. The paramedics that left were Advanced Life Support certified. That means, if you needed medicine or an IV before getting to the hospital, they could do it. Now that they’re gone, city leaders say they have a plan that will fill the gap.

When tragedy strikes there's no time to wait.

"Our call loads are increasing, more demands for service,” Kevin Michalek with Petersburg Fire said.

On top of that, last month Petersburg cut ties with 10 part-time paramedics. Those part-timers were brought on as a cost-savings move after the city scaled back its partnership with the EMS agency called Southside Emergency Crew. At the time, the city was behind in paying the agency and needed to change the way it did business.

“It didn't always work. I would say it worked probably 50% of the time,” Michalek admitted.

Why is that?

“Most of the part-timers all worked for other agencies, fire departments, EMS agencies, so this was just a part-time job for them…If they were scheduled to work {and} called in sick, then it became problematic of getting other providers in to cover those positions or shifting personnel around to make sure positions were covered,” Michalek explained.

Without those 10 medics, only seven of the city’s 74 emergency medical technicians are ALS certified. That means less than 1 percent of emergency medical staff can offer advanced life support if you need medicine on the scene.

Kenneth Miller says the city is two steps ahead. He says he’s now proposing Southside Emergency pick up where it left off in a partnership with Petersburg Fire to fully cover the city.

"When there's a need for advanced life support, somebody needs to be there,” Bubby Bish of Southside Emergency Crew said.

The plan would mean an additional 16 full-time ALS providers to keep you safe. Also, instead of one ambulance on the street, there would be four to protect Petersburg.

"More coverage for the City of Petersburg and an improved coverage….Advanced Life Support coverage really is important,” Bish added.

Of Dinwiddie’s 23 emergency technicians, 21 of them have Advanced Life Support Training. In Colonial Heights, all of the 40-plus technicians are ALS certified. But in Richmond, the department fully relies on its partnership with the Richmond Ambulance Authority for ALS services.

The proposal in Petersburg is just that, but both sides hope for deal before the end of the year.

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