Palisades resident Franklin E. Kameny (The Mail, 2/23) described as “totally irrational” the District’s Emergency Medical Services’ existence as a division of the Metropolitan Fire Department. Kameny suggested that EMS “should be totally divorced from the fire department.” I agree, and I have been attempting to do just that for some time.
In 1999, I introduced a bill in the D.C. Council that would separate EMS from the fire department. The legislation would abolish EMS as a division of the fire department and would create the District of Columbia Medical Services Agency.
I have long believed that many of the problems that EMS has faced since it was added as a division of the fire department in 1981 have been direct results of managerial conflicts between EMS and the fire department. The separation proposed would eliminate those conflicts and would give the mayor and the council a direct focus on how best to improve our responses to medical emergencies.
Also, the push to “cross-train” firefighters in emergency medical care and emergency medical technicians in firefighting skills is, I believe, asking too much of the men and women who serve on the front lines. I understand the need for cross-training some firefighters as EMTs, because firefighters, while performing their duties, may well encounter situations where emergency medical care is required. But, for the most part, firefighters need to focus on what they do bestfighting firesand they should continue to be trained to do it well. The same holds true for our EMTs.
Because my legislation was not acted on during the last council period, I reintroduced it on March 6. It is a good bill, and one that I am sure will improve responses to emergencies for all our citizens and visitors.
At-Large D.C. Councilmember