By Aaron Besecker
The Buffalo News
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Haggling over the price of a prosthetic leg for an injured Buffalo firefighter led to a three-month delay and ended up saving the city about $8,000, fire union officials said Thursday.
Mark P. Reed, who lost his right leg fighting a fire in 2007 and was in a coma for 31 days, had been promised a new prosthetic limb in January, but it was held up as the city tried to negotiate a lower price, according to leaders of Local 282, Buffalo Professional Firefighters Association.
Union President Daniel M. Cunningham said representatives of the city's Human Resources Department told him the firm hired by the city to manage cases of firefighters injured on duty was trying to negotiate a lower price.
Fire Commissioner Garnell W. Whitfield Jr. said that it was not Great Lakes Physician Services but the city's Human Resources Department that was seeking to reduce the price.
Cunningham called the delay "morally wrong" during a Common Council workshop on Mayor Byron W. Brown's proposed 2012-13 budget.
The initial cost of the prosthesis was $95,000, but the city ended up paying about $87,000 or $88,000, Cunningham said.
Whitfield said that once he became aware of the delay, he got involved. "I worked with him to get that through," he said of Reed.
Reed received the replacement prosthesis in March.
The union has been critical of Great Lakes Physician Services and its president, Dr. David P. Hughes.
In September, the union contended that doctors in the emergency room at Erie County Medical Center were clearing firefighters for duty while they were still injured, a problem that the union said stemmed from the city's attempt to lower costs through its agreement with Great Lakes Physician Services.
At Thursday's budget workshop, Cunningham also referred to the case of another former Buffalo firefighter who is receiving a disability pension and is already off the city payroll, but who the city is trying to get to pay a portion of his medical bills.
The union also wants the city to add several thousand dollars to the budget to pay for bottled water for firefighters at fire scenes.
Currently, the union picks up the entire cost for the water bottles. City fire vehicles are equipped with water containers and cups, but the union says the containers are not airtight and could be contaminated by the trucks' diesel fumes.
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