Yesterday an editorial column appeared in The Chief, the long time propaganda machine dedicated to civil servants in the New York City region. The opinion column is titled Value Them Like Firefighters: Improve Salaries For EMS Workers and is authored by Kevin G. Munjal, MD, MPH, MSCR. The article addresses the notion of the “promotion” to firefighter despite being in a department where the functional majority of calls is medical in nature. The article is behind a paywall and not viewable unless you have a subscription, which is obviously to prevent the contents from getting out and going viral because what the article suggests is not necessarily aligned with the propaganda machine.
A number of the points he makes in the article, such as the high proportion of medical calls to fire related calls and the disproportionate levels of staffing, are not new items to anyone who works in the city or reads this blog. The traditional importance placed on the fire side of the service is something that has been railed against since the absorption of NYC EMS in 1996. The fact this practice has continued for 20 years unabated by the public or elected officials is a testament to the PR machine of the fire service.
In the published opinion Dr. Munjal makes two very important points about the situation. The first point is about the function of FDNY:
While the identity and soul of the FDNY is and may always be its heroic Firefighter, it is high time that the public, our civic leaders, and most of all, our budgets, begin to come to grips with a reality that FDNY is primarily a provider of medical care in New York City.
Again, not surprising news to those of us in the industry, but something the public and our elected officials continually fail to address. The second point he makes is that becoming a firefighter is NOT the only path for EMTs and Paramedics:
The currently inadequate monetary value we place on the EMS workforce contributes to high turnover and attrition as many EMTs and Paramedics find themselves unable to support themselves or their families on current wages. They don’t just leave EMS to become firefighters. They leave to pursue any number of other careers where there is higher pay. Not having a stable workforce makes it difficult for EMS to invest in quality improvement. In addition, low wages make it difficult to raise the bar for entry into the profession or to increase educational standards.
Again, not necessarily a surprising point, but the connection to quality improvement is undeniable and often not made.
The more surprising part of this article is that it was published in The Chief, which has a vested interest in keeping things the way it is to maintain their reader base… which also explains why they have placed his Op-Ed behind a subscription paywall. It seems to be a growing and concerning trend to put controversial articles behind paywalls to limit their exposure.
Despite being behind the paywall, the full text has been making it’s way around on Facebook through a copy and paste method. While this is effective to reach the industry insiders, it is not necessarily the most effective way to reach those who seemingly need to read this the most… the public and our elected officials. By it circulating just amongst EMS providers, it is essentially preaching to the choir.