October 09, 2015

Chelsea Bland
(202) 777-3079
[email protected]

Concerns Mount With Push for Private Ambulances in D.C.

Categories: Washington, D.C., D.C. Government, Privatization

Union activists say rush to privatize puts emergency needs of residents at risk 

WASHINGTON – American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 3721 strongly opposes plans to privatize parts of D.C.’s EMS system. After a rushed D.C. Council meeting, council members voted unanimously to approve a plan that relies on third-party vendors to respond to emergency medical calls in the District. The plan, developed by Chief Gregory Dean, is void of critical input from front-line civilian EMS providers.  

“The quick passage of this plan is dangerous to the emergency care provided by EMS to District residents and visitors,” said AFGE Local 3721 President Aretha Lyles. “This band-aid approach to a systemic problem will only send us back where we started. If private companies are sent to ‘low-priority’ calls and the situation escalates the patient will be waiting for the appropriate medical resource to respond to their emergency. It is imperative that we explore 21st century approaches to improving our quality of service to medical emergencies.”

Top recommendations by AFGE Local 3721 include:

  • Center resources and funding on medical care. The demand on the EMS system for medical services nears 80% yet only 20% of program resources are allocated to these services. It’s time for city officials to invest in the infrastructure of EMS that will truly address the quality of service.
  • Increase city civilian EMS over private companies. EMS non-emergency medical busses should be staffed and operated by D.C. government employees. Using private companies opens the door for these businesses to put profits over patients, charging them for services and mileage that occur during their transport to an area hospital.
  • Convene talks with trained civilian EMS in order to improve the system. Key stakeholders such as local doctors and nurses, hospitals, D.C. Department of Health, AFGE Local 3721, D.C. Federation of Citizens Associations and others must be at the table to provide critical feedback on how to best improve the system and meet the emergency medical needs of district residents.  The civilian EMS first-responders performing the lifesaving medical functions were completely cut out of the process in developing short-term plans to address gaps in service. The city must collaborate with these workers if it is serious about creating substantive change.

“We must be critical of plans to privatize the care and emergency response to District residents,” said Lyles. “All too often private corporations use local governments to pad their own pockets instead of putting people first. There are meaningful changes the city can make to meet the increased demand on EMS by investing in city-run systems that provide the best, most cost effective services to residents. Let’s not leave the emergency care of Washingtonians in the hands of the lowest bidder.”

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