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Nebraska Dept. Changes Ambulance Staffing

Omaha City Councilwoman Jean Stothert thinks the city could save money by removing fire captains from rescue squads and replacing them with firefighter paramedics. And she says a state commission gave the city permission to do so.

The Fire Department has requested keeping its ambulance staffing the same: a minimum of two people, one of whom is a fire captain paramedic. The other, a firefighter paramedic, earns less than a fire captain.

The Nebraska Commission on Industrial Relations ruled earlier this year that there must be a minimum of two fire staff on an ambulance but left it to Fire Department management to decide what positions those would be.

Stothert said Sunday that Fire Department officials could choose to staff ambulances differently and thereby save the city money at a critical time. She sent a memo to Mayor Jim Suttle to that effect on Friday.

In an interview Sunday, Stothert said she didn t know what the cost savings would be in replacing fire captains with paramedics in the Fire Department s $71.7 million annual budget. But she said she would explore that and push to have fire captains removed from ambulances.

All we hear from the Fire Department is We can t cut anything because it s all under contract, Stothert said. Here s an item no longer under contract. It s up to management. I m saying here s a way to save money and bridge the gap in the 2009 budget.

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