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EMT Union Chief Disputes NJ Mayor's Claim of No-Shows

PATERSON, N.J. -- The head of the emergency medical technicians union, responding to Mayor Jose Joey Torres claim that her members fail to show up for work, said her 37 EMTs are playing against a stacked deck.

Tina Hines, president of the Paterson Emergency Medical Technicians Association, defended her group in the face of a new plan that would gradually phase out civilian EMTs, with Paterson firefighters assuming their duties. Torres said the plan will save taxpayers money and that it was introduced partly because the civilian employees often fail to show up for work.

Hines said it is difficult to staff shifts on the ambulances because there haven t been enough EMTs since the city instituted a hiring freeze in 2005.

We were downsized, and we don t have anyone to work, Hines said.

Torres, however, disagreed with Hines, saying that there are enough part-time and full-time EMTs to keep the ambulances fully staffed and on the road.

If they accept a job, I m under the assumption that they re going to show up, Torres said.

Still, Hines said that the number of EMTs falls woefully short and that part-time employees have other jobs they need to schedule around.

Part-timers have other jobs, Hines said. It makes them not be able to pick up other shifts, because there s a conflict with their other jobs.

Torres said the city has no plans to lay off civilian employees, but he did file an attrition plan with the state Department of Community Affairs outlining steps the city could take that could eliminate the need for its emergency medical technician staff.

Hines said that the move would stretch the firefighters thin because they will be exhausted after responding to emergency medical calls on the ambulance.

You re going to send that firefighter into that general alarm? Hines asked. How tired are they going to be?

William Filippelli, president of the Paterson Firefighters Association, did not return a telephone call Thursday seeking comment on his members covering ambulance duties on a more consistent basis. There are 225 firefighters, of which 142 are EMT-certified, according to Deputy Chief Edward McLaughlin.

In any given day, those guys could be caught up in back-to-back fires and then back to ride the ambulance, said Councilman-at-Large Jeffrey Jones, who said he opposes the mayor s plan.

Reach Alexander MacInnes at 973-569-7166 or macinnes@northjersey.com

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