Letter: No need for firefighters to provide medical care

The Editor, Re. “Mayor blames provincial downloading for PoCo’s increased firefighting costs” (The Tri-City News, May 5).

The Editor,

Re. “Mayor blames provincial downloading for PoCo’s increased firefighting costs” (The Tri-City News, May 5).

article continues below

To Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore: Draw the line on firefighting costs.

I applaud your stand against a provincial government that has downloaded many costs.

But I am disturbed by your assertion that city government is responsible for hiring seven firefighters and deploying a new apparatus. Here’s why: The first responders program is voluntary. There are no statutory obligations to respond to medical calls. Firefighters are to respond only when paramedics are delayed, a patient has absent vital signs or is unconscious.

After intense media and political pressure but with no evidence fire departments, demanded to be sent to 48 more categories of emergencies. Despite evidence-based studies, fire chiefs maintained if they do not respond, people will die. Research studies draw the same conclusion: The infrequency of critical interventions is such that first responders render no necessary service in the majority of cases.

Fred McChesney, a professor of law and economics, wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post headlined “Fewer fires, so why are there far more firefighters?” Fires have declined 40% to 60% yet the number of firefighters has increased by 37%. Fire chiefs need more personnel as rapid response times save lives.

The majority of the cases (80% to 90%) the patient requires an assessment and transport to hospital. At hospital, individuals wait hours to see a doctor. In the vast majority of calls, firefighters play no role in patient care or influence patient outcomes so rapid response times are a poor measurement of patient care.

We need a modern well-equipped, fiscally responsible department. I support the fire chief on many issues. I do not support the hiring of additional firefighters for medical responses.

The mayor may attempt to distance himself by publicly denouncing the government and using the fire chief’s common response of downloading. The mayor and council’s failure to apply the same due diligence to the fire service as other projects in the city falls squarely on them. Their failure is why taxpayers will be on the hook for near a million dollars.

Geoff Taylor, Port Coquitlam

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