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From the October 2009 Issue | Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Better Representation
Having a diverse EMS workforce fosters patient-provider communication and ultimately better care. However, many EMS organizations are not representative of their local populations, and many in underrepresented groups still can't afford to forgo work to get the necessary training. That all may start to change in St. Paul, Minn., where the fire chief dreamed up an idea to address a lack of diversity and the mayor got on board.

"St. Paul firefighters are called on every day to assist people from different cultures, who speak different languages and practice different religions, and the clock is always ticking," said St. Paul city Councilmember Melvin Carter III.

So now the city is paying 40 people between the ages of 18 and 24 from low-income households to take a 10-week EMT certification program, which would open the door to becoming a St. Paul firefighter and future paramedic training. Sixteen of the program's 22 participants are female, and all are of color.

Similar programs are still a tall order in cities without the support St. Paul is getting for this endeavor (help is coming from local charities, unions and even individuals like Carter), but bravo to the city for putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to diversity.

Fight for What's Right
What would you do if you lost six paramedics in one year because they found jobs just across the county line that offered more money and better benefits? If you were Putnam County (W. Va.) EMS Director Cecil Kimble, you would enlist the help of County Administrator Brian Donat and work with your county officials to score a pay increase for your EMTs and paramedics to keep them around.

"It wasn't something that we just decided to do. We've been feeding [commissioners] information for the last six months and giving them a heads up on what was happening and how we were wanting to fix it," Kimble says.

The county_s commissioners approved a 10% raise, which brings the paramedic base pay to $41,000. "It's not like we're paying more than anyone around us. We_re just right there in the playing field again," Kimble says, adding that it helped that the state and the county didn't have a deficit. "We're not as bad off as some other states," he says. We think every leader should work side by side with officials to keep good employees around.

Fresh Idea
Peterborough County EMS paramedics can start an IV or give oxygen when you're sick, but they'd rather be gardening. No, they're not lazy. They just know where good health starts, which is why the central Ontario, Canada, providers have planted a garden with tomatoes, zucchini, squash, eggplant, carrots, cucumber, lettuce, Brussels sprouts and garlic alongside their station. The fledgling garden, which was started by paramedic Mark Cameron to help staff reduce stress, has expanded with the help of the local fairgrounds and independent grocers. Once it really gets going, the produce will be given away to area residents, primarily seniors. Thumbs up to these gardening medics for promoting good healthƒorganically.

Chalk One Up for Safety
The New Mexico Supreme Court has affirmed that hospitals can be held liable for negligently selecting air ambulance contractors when they affirmed a judgment in favor of the parents of Damon Talbott, a New Mexico state police officer who was killed in a Medical Air Transport (MAT) helicopter crash.

His parents sued Eastern New Mexico Medical Center, alleging that MAT had a poor safety record that the hospital didn;t properly investigate, and that the hospital shouldn't have entered into the agreement with them. This decision demonstrates the importance of investigating into the safety record of all ambulance companies. We think it's one more step in the right direction toward improved air ambulance standards.JEMS

For more on EMS diversity efforts and EMS salaries, click here to read the "2009 JEMS Salary & Workplace Survey"

For more on the NM Supreme Courtdecision, visit jems.com/emsinsider.




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