CHICAGO — The Chicago Fire Department is collecting PPE from all paramedics, a move some say is putting the responders’ lives in danger.
Chicago Sun Times reported that SCBA were removed from 75 Chicago ambulances two years ago. In addition, 70 paramedics graduating from the fire academy weren’t issued fire helmets, boots and PPE.
“Local 2 believe the removal of the bunker gear from our paramedics is not in the best interest of our membership,” Tom Ryan, president of the Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2, said. “Chicago’s paramedics face extremely dangerous situations every day on every shift. These dangers are often unforeseen and unpredictable. With Chicago not only being a national but an international destination, we must be prepared to respond to any and all emergencies.”
The decision to rid paramedics of PPE was announced in a May 4 memo signed by Assistant Deputy Fire Commissioner Mark Nielsen.
“Items to be returned are: (1) bunker coat, (1) bunker pants, (1) bunker suspenders. In addition, paramedic field chiefs shall return their … face pieces,” Nielsen’s memo said.
Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said paramedics don’t need the gear because they aren’t sent into areas where they need to wear it.
“If a situation comes up that requires a paramedic in a fire area or dangerous location, they will send in a fire paramedic not a single-role paramedic,” Langford said. “In other words, a paramedic from a truck or engine company, not a paramedic from an ambulance. Since ambulance paramedics don’t go into those situations, they do not need that type of gear.”
A veteran paramedic called the policy change evidence of the “second-class status paramedics have been forced to endure under the four-year regime of Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago,” according to the report.
The paramedic also said the policy change means medics “can no longer go near a fire building or car extrication.”
“Now, they would have to wait for firefighters to bring those patients to them,” the paramedic said. “The CFD will tell you, ‘No worries. Firefighters will bring patients to the paramedics.’ But, it never works like that because they are too busy with the fire. This administration can’t stand paramedics. So, they will take the bunker gear away and give us some God-awful crap.”