Re: Your article on the functioning of the D.C. Fire Department-Emergency Medical Service (“Call for Help,” 2/9). The Washington City Paper, like everyone else, apparently, misses the major problem entirely: The totally irrational, insane juncture of the EMS and the fire department. Conceptually, these are two totally separate services, bearing no rational relationship to each other whatever. If my house is on fire, I do not want an ambulanceI want fire engines, staffed by competent professional firefighters, who need know nothing about medicine. If I have a heart attack, I do not want fire enginesI want an ambulance, dispatched not from a firehouse but from some appropriate ambulance depot, staffed by competent professional medical personnel, who need know nothing about fighting fires. Currently, we get a weird mixture of both, to the detriment of the most effective functioning of either.
The EMS should be totally divorced from the fire department, either established as an independent agency or placed administratively within some rationally related government department, but functioning autonomously on its own. As a minor auxiliary, the fire department can maintain its own small emergency medical service devoted solely to attending to injuries sustained by firefighters in the course of fighting fires (and by occupants of burning buildings).
I do not know the historical basis for this bizarre and utterly illogical joining of two indispensable but totally unrelated municipal services, but whatever that basis may once have been, it is without any validity in the present, and it ill serves the needs of our citizens, whether they be burning or ailing.
The City Paper and its readers would be doing a major service by pushing the D.C. Council and the mayor for legislation and/or administrative action to cleanly and completely sever the connection between these two services.