Members of the San Francisco EMS community were recently rocked by the announcement that the famed San Francisco Paramedics Association (SFPA) would close at the end of June.
“It is with extreme regret and heartfelt sadness that we announce the SFPA is closing its doors on June 30, 2014,” the organization’s officials said in a message on its website, which also noted all classes scheduled through December were canceled.
The swift and sudden announcement left many in the region wondering what happened to the progressive organization and what would take its place in the future.
“I think everybody is pretty shell-shocked from it,” says Ed Sawicki, NREMT-P, a consultant brought in to help close out the operation. “A lot of people are surprised and devastated. It’s a loss to the community. It’s like having a child or a mentor not there.”
The organization has been around for 31 years and served as a source of classes for paramedics and EMTs in the area. On a larger scale, the SFPA was also a vocal EMS advocate, and some say this is what will be missed most.
Exactly what happened to the SFPA is a source of speculation within the community. The organization’s Facebook page, now closed, began the year on a positive note suggesting big things were planned.
Sawicki, who in the past has served as an instructor and an SFPA board member, says he was brought in to help with “the process of going out of business.” He declined to discuss specific issues that led to the closing, saying there were “a number” of different factors. He did note that increased fees to provide courses from the American Heart Association caused some financial challenges.
“They’ve had their moments like any other association,” Sawicki says. “This is something that accumulated over the last year, unbeknownst to the board.”
Sawicki says he and another consultant are working with the current staff to close the SFPA, which is a 501c3 nonprofit.
Based on the the latest documents filed in 2012 for the organization at guidestar.org, the organization posted total revenues of $1,330,279 against expenses of $1,294,287.
No matter the reason for closing, the move was a surprise to outsiders who relied on classes there. Reviews on Yelp were overwhelmingly positive.
“SFPA was a truly exceptional organization with truly exceptional and committed instructors,” wrote contributor Paul S. in a June 14, 2014, post. “They performed a great public service and will be greatly missed. I just hope some of the instructors might be able to continue teaching locally.”
Although there are other organizations in the area providing classes—and others are expected to emerge in the wake of the SFPA closing—the change has people wondering what’s next.
“It does leave a substantial gap,” says Sawicki, “and we’re unsure how it’s going to be filled.”