Austin unions: Lack of funds causing delayed response times
The Austin-Travis County EMS Employee Association and Lake Travis Fire Fighters Association are asking Travis County to reverse the funding cuts for ambulances
By FireRescue1 Staff
AUSTIN, Texas — Union leaders are calling for Travis County to reverse funding cuts they say are negatively impacting response times.
KXAN reported that the Austin-Travis County EMS Employee Association and Lake Travis Fire Fighters Association made what they called a "joint collaboration, beyond geographical or political lines, call to prioritize public safety," to address how the funding cuts are creating a “fragmented” EMS system.
Lake Travis Fire Fighters Association president Braden Frame said they are asking for “a little over $2 million” to be restored after Travis County cut funding for 2.5 ambulances last year, which means two 24-hour ambulances were cut and one was bumped down to 12-hour response.
“Citizens served by Austin-Travis County EMS benefit from experienced fire-based credentialed providers arriving quickly to determine patient acuity,” ATCEMSEA president Tony Marquardt said. “However, the majority of life-threatening medical emergencies (heart attack, strokes, and trauma) require both immediate recognition and rapid ambulance transport. Decreases in EMS funding negatively impact the patient’s chance for a positive outcome when critically sick or injured.”
"The unfortunate issue is it wasn't based on a public safety need, it seemed to be a mission of scaling back expenditures without addressing what would be lost moving forward,” Marquardt added.
Frame and Marquardt stressed that the changes will affect everyone.
"It's a cut from anywhere across the county that's going to ripple across and effect every citizen, regardless of where they live,” Frame said.
“If we are not maintaining our necessary geographic coverage for these 1,100 miles, we are going to miss some critical response times,” Marquardt said. "1,100 square miles of coverage, you know, there's a lot that can go wrong."
Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said the county will continue to “assure a unified standard of care for every resident, no matter what corner of the county or which city that resident lives in.”
“In FY 2016 we had 12 emergency medical units deployed throughout Travis County, all of which were operated by the City of Austin,” she said in a statement. “In FY 2017 we had 14, three of which were operated by Emergency Services Districts. Now, in FY 2018, we have 14, five of which are operated by Emergency Services Districts. Overall response times in the service area outside the City of Austin have improved in FY 2018. I will continue to work in partnership with all current and potential providers for effective, efficient and fair fire and emergency medical response county-wide.”
However, Josh David, county executive of emergency services, said response times throughout the county need to be improved.