Monday, June 4, 2007

Exploring cuts to Pittsburgh EMS?

Just last month Rick Earle broke a story on Pittsburgh EMS being below national standards. In a previous post, I was concerned with the performance of Pittsburgh EMS but listened to the perspective of Paramedic Union president Jeff Vesci who stated that budget cuts in the past have eliminated 30 EMTs. He also stated that the city needs 4 additional advanced life support units to "make the system right". And the state oversight board wants to explore budget cuts?

Yet, Jeremy Boren reported first today, "City overseers study cuts". Oh yes. The state oversight board will use part of its $632,000 allotment to pay for a $74,000 study on how to explore cuts to and improve efficiency with EMS's budget. While it is unknown whether Vesci's comments were based upon internal performance/need audits, this study will be based on data. The best part, however is that, "The results of the studies could show ways of merging fire and EMS services to cut costs, oversight board officials said today". The oversight board contracted out the study to Tridata Corp of Arlington, VA.

The oversight board commissioned a $193,000 study of the city's Fire Bureau to TriData last year. Preliminary results of that analysis are expected to be available later this month.
Rich Lord covers the story as well, "City medic service, merger with Fire Bureau studied". From the PG:
"They're looking at everything from equipment to safety to training to coverage," said Barbara McNees, chair of the ICA. Given changes in the city, from increasing Downtown housing to a coming casino to the transformation of East Liberty, the city needs "a plan on where we are and what we need to look like" in the public safety bureaus, she said.
"We're respectful and mindful of the fact that the three uniformed services have collective bargaining agreements," said ICA Executive Director Henry Sciortino.
"The more data, the better," said city Finance Director Scott Kunka, adding that Mayor Luke Ravenstahl hasn't committed to implementing whatever recommendations come out of the study.
Merging fire and EMS? If it is based on good data and reasonably conservative interpretations, why not? Well, interest group coalitions like the respective fire and EMS unions might block such a merger even though it might be better for the city in terms of cost-effectiveness and improved service delivery. There is more to the equation than sound efficiency analysis when a policy like a fire/EMS merger is on the table. Of course, the mayor is going to be hesitant and give a prelude to his refusal to restructure city government and spend some of his unearned political capital. Will this analysis of Tridata Corp. vindicate those who believe the city needs to renegotiate its contract with the firefighters? While results of the Fire Bureau study will be available later this month will we, the public, have access to its results?

On a side note, why would the oversight commission not use the funding allotment it receives from the state to contract with either locally-based companies providing these kinds reports (RAND, for example) or the many skilled academics in public policy or related departments who are capable of producing such reports? That might encourage some linkages and engagement between local policy-making bodies and the wealth of skill we have at our universities in Pittsburgh.


Matt H said...

Welcome back.