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9/11 Responders Fight Proposed Funding Cuts

The five months that EMT Charlie Giles worked at Ground Zero after 9/11 cost him his health and forced him to sell his home to pay medical bills for 13 hospitalizations, he said at a Feb. 27 rally at the U.S. Capitol.

Scores of sick Sept. 11 responders and their families protested the president's proposal to slash funds for the Healthcare for Heroes program from $108 million in fiscal 2008 to $25 million in 2009. Multidisciplinary teams of responders (EMS, fire, police and demolition workers) then visited 38 congressional offices to ask lawmakers to pass HR 3543, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, to provide medical monitoring and treatment to eligible World Trade Center emergency responders, recovery and cleanup workers, and nearby residents.

The FealGood Foundation(www.fealgoodfoundation.com),a non-profit founded by volunteer John Feal, who lost part of his foot while working on the pile, organized the protest and lobbying.

A Thumbs Up to Feal and other 9/11 responders who keep pressing the Bush Administration and Congress to provide for their medical needs. And a big Thumbs Down to those in government who require them to keep doing so.

Need Transport? Take a Number

The Cincinnati Fire Department (CFD) fields only 10 ambulances to serve some 330,000 peopleƒwhile„Akron,„Ohio, uses 13 for a population of 217,000.

˙We currently have a situation where there are no transport units available one to two times each day,Ó says CFD Medical Director Donald Locasto, MD.

˙We haven't had an adequate number of ambulances for years. Everybody knows it's an issue,Ó says IAFF Local 48 President Marc Monahan, adding that the number of„EMS runs has increased by 25% in the past 10 years.

The CFD looked at six months of data back in 2004 and found 281 instances (averaging 1.5 times a day) when there was no transport unit available for a call, according to a news story by Cincinnati TV channel WCPO. In 2006, the CFD commissioned an independent study by TriData Corp., which recommended putting four more ambulances on the streetƒa suggestion Locasto says is ˙reasonable.Ó

CFD has dual-trained firefighters, with plenty of EMTs and some 200 paramedics to rotate onto its six BLS and four ALS units. Locasto says he and EMS Chief Denny Clark meet with CFD Chief Robert Wright monthly to ˙discuss different ways to staff our response vehicles.Ó The union would like to assign two EMTs to all 10 ambulances and put dual paramedic crews into fly cars to respond to ALS calls as needed. Another idea is to staff each ambulance with one paramedic and one EMT. Monahan says CFD doesn't have enough paramedics for that scheme to work, but Locasto says the department began in-house paramedic training in January and should graduate 24 students in November.

Meanwhile,„Cincinnati's city council is looking into the situation and should release its recommendations soon. Councilor Jeff Berding wants a task force to investigate options and see if other cities have found ways to reduce ambulance runs. ˙When we use an ambulance to transport someone with a cough, that ambulance is not available to someone possibly having a stroke or heart attack,Ó he says.

˙We always get an EMT to the scene within four to six minutes, so immediate emergency care can get started,Ó Locasto says. ˙To my knowledge, there have been no poor outcomes directly related to our current situation.Ó

JEMShopes Cincinnati follows the lead of other cities and improves its staffing before a tragic patient outcome forces the action.

Green Building Benefits Medics

Canada's capital city built a new, environmentally friendly headquarters for Ottawa Paramedic Service (OPS) in 2005, which just became Ottawa's first building to receive certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

Double-paned, argon-filled windows moderate the temperature inside. A heat recovery system uses the air in the building to cool or heat incoming air, depending on the season. The high-tech HVAC system measures the CO in the air and lets in outside air when the level is too high.

˙You don't see the components that make it a green building,Ó says OPS Public Information Officer Jean-Pierre Trottier. Some of the approximately 400 people who work in the building feel the ˙air quality is much better here than they even have at home,Ó he says.

˙In the two years that I've been here, I have not fallen to illness at all,Ó says property manager Dulka McLellan. ˙And I have to say I probably feel a lot more energized.Ó

The extra investment in design and construction is also paying off financially. The designers estimated it would take 3.6 years to recoup the extra money spent on construction, but it appears they will hit the break-even point before then.

According to McLellan, the design saves OPS about 30% in utilitiesƒeven with a dishwasher. (No paper plates in a green building!) Timers and motion sensors turn off lights in empty rooms. The carpets are made of recycled materials. Landscaping with native plants requires little irrigation.

We commend„Ottawa for taking steps to help the environmentƒand for creating a healthy atmosphere for its„EMS personnel!

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