Local News

Jul 24, 2014 10:29 PM by Bart Bedsole - bbedsole@kristv.com

Union Grievance Forces City To Decline Grant Program

CORPUS CHRISTI - A grant program intended to help reduce the number of unnecessary calls for EMS service won't happen after all.

The local firefighters union filed a grievance with the City over the program, claiming it would violate its agreement with the City.

The 3-year $860,000 grant would have funded the hiring of four people, made up of two nurses and two paramedics, but the paramedics were not going to be Corpus Christi Fire Department paramedics, and the Corpus Christi Firefighters Association believe using non-association paramedics violates its agreement with the City.

The fire department estimates that 80 percent of all calls to 911 for EMS service don't actually need to go to the emergency room, and a high percentage of those calls come from the same small group of people.

As part of a concept known as "Community Paramedicine", the fire department would have identified individuals who fall into that category, and a team of two nurses and two paramedics would have helped them get primary care earlier, reduce the strain on ambulances and hospitals.

"The goal was to help with case management and resource management for those people that are calling 911 that are not in an emergency life threatening situation," says City Spokesperson Kim Womack.

But this week, the Association filed a grievance.

The Association says it supports the concept of Community Paramedicine, but believes only fire department paramedics should be used in the program, not paramedics under the umbrella of the Health Department.

"That way, we'll be in compliance with not only civil service rules and regulations, our collective bargaining agreement, and state statutes that affect firefighters here in Corpus Christi, Texas," says Association President Carlos Torres.

Torres says the association will be happy to talk about the program as part of its ongoing contract negotiations with the city, but not separately.

"We feel that if the city and the association are going to enter into a Community Paramedicine program, that's where it needs to be talked about, at the negotiations table, and since talks are not ongoing right now, we're at a standstill."

The City believes citizens of Nueces County will miss out on a very beneficial program because of union technicalities.

"Because of this, the citizens are going to lose out," says Womack, "The citizens are going to lose out on the care, and it's unfortunate that it comes down to where a paramedic resides, whether it's the health department or the fire department."

Womack says the city believes if this grievance went to court, it would win, but dealing with the grievance forced the city to give up the grant.

There's no immediate hope of reviving that program.

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