December 26 2017

Fire Department Continues Push Towards 'Advanced Life Support' Service

By: Rich Hosford

The Burlington Fire Department is continuing towards its goal of offering the community better medical emergency care.


As reported on BNEWS, for roughly the past two years the department has been pushing towards switching its emergency medical status from Basic Life Support (BLS) to Advanced Life Support (ALS). The main part of this push has been hiring Firefighter/Paramedics rather than EMTs. In the past two years the department has welcomed six paramedics into its ranks with another three currently entering the fire academy. There are also three potential vacancies that could be filled with paramedics in 2018, a report from the department states.


Now the department is looking to offer paramedic training to its current members.


“We have worked with the Fire Union to allow current Firefighter/EMT’s to opt in to a training course to train them as paramedics,” a report presented to the Board of Selectmen last week states.


During that meeting Chief Steve Yetman and Assistant Chief Michael Patterson asked the board to vote to allow a warrant article to be included on the 2018 January Town Meeting agenda that would allow for $260,000 to be transferred from Free Cash for the training. This sum would allow the department to train eight members, which if the year-long training starts in March of next year, will increase the number of Firefighter/Paramedics on the force from 12 to 20 by July of 2019.


This in itself will not get the department to full ALS status. According to the report they will need to work with the state, Lahey Hospital and the town’s current ALS provider, Armstrong Ambulance, to have the department approved for ALS status. They will also need to negotiate the expired contract with the Fire Union to incorporate provisions for ALS service and will need to prepare a budget for FY2020 that will include the costs associated with the change.


The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to have the article placed on the warrant. They also took votes to direct the Town Administrator and the Fire Department to implement a conversion to ALS ambulance service by July of 2019 and to have the Town Administrator negotiate the union contract.


According to the Fire Department there are a number of advantages of switching from BLS to ALS. The first is response time. The town has an ALS provider but it is not dedicated to Burlington and instead has ambulance patrolling several communities. This means that the average response time from the outside service is seven minutes after the ALS provider is notified. If the Burlington Fire Department were to provide ALS service the response time in town would be within four minutes.


Another benefit is revenue. Currently the outside ALS provider receives roughly 60 percent of the payments, mostly from insurance companies, for ambulance transports. If Burlington had ALS service the town would receive the full 100 percent rather than the 40 percent it collects now.


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