NORTH HAVEN - Town officials and the firefighters' union are moving forward with the establishment of a paramedic unit.
"The union deserves credit for working with us to come to an agreement that allows us to provide paramedic services to taxpayers without affecting our ability to provide the high level of services that are so important to North Haven families. They really stepped up, and on the behalf of North Haven residents, I thank them for that," First Selectwoman Janet M. McCarty said.
The agreement between the North Haven Professional Firefighters Association and the town provides for a stipend for the eight firefighters who will serve as paramedics. Firefighters who are already certified as emergency medical technicians will continue to receive a lower stipend.
The memorandum of understanding between the town and the union also requires firefighters who are currently paramedics to maintain their paramedic licenses for five years. Anyone who is hired by the Fire Department to be a paramedic must retain the license for 12 years as a condition of employment. Four firefighters already are trained as paramedics. Eight paramedics are needed to start the unit.
Sixteen people applied, and 15 took the written exam May 30, according to Fire Chief Vincent Landisio. Ranking fire officers from Hamden, Danbury and the South Fire District of Middletown conducted oral exams June 18. The candidates were ranked, and the Fire Commission Thursday will interview the top 10 for four paramedic/firefighter openings, Landisio said.
In advertising for the positions, the town asked that applicants be nationally registered paramedics or paramedics recognized by the New Haven Sponsor Hospital Program, so that not as much training time will be necessary. The sponsor hospital program will have medical control over the paramedic program, but has nothing to do with the hiring, Landisio said.
The town may also have to train the new hires to be firefighters, depending on who is hired, he added. The hiring should be done in late August or early September. Equipment for the program should be purchased by the time the program is started at the end of the year.
Once the program is in effect, the town will no longer have to rely on private ambulance companies to provide paramedic services on medical calls. After years of planning and false starts, the town was finally able to move ahead with the paramedic program after voters in May agreed to accept a federal grant of $433,520 over four years that will partially pay for the program. The town will have to kick in $678,179 over the same period to cover the rest of the costs.
The union and the town were unable to reach agreement on the contract language several years ago. "This year, we were able to not only hold the line on taxes, but also to establish North Haven's paramedic program that makes our residents safer," McCarty said. "We are continuing to move forward in making the Fire Department entirely self-sufficient so that we can make North Haven as safe as possible at all times," said Landisio.