Paramedic’s Criticisms of Fire Dept. Greeted Coolly

Times Staff Writer

Members of the Los Angeles Fire Commission reacted coolly Thursday to charges by the head of the paramedics union that the Fire Department has been “unacceptably slow” in improving the city’s emergency medical services system.

Fred Hurtado, president of the 421-member United Paramedics of Los Angeles, accused the department of “foot-dragging” and repeated his call from last month for the removal of Donald O. Manning as fire chief.

One commissioner, Aileen Adams, said she thinks the city has taken “giant steps forward” in improving emergency medical service. She called on the Fire Department to summarize what has been done about emergency medical service and to report back to the board next week.

Manning agreed to order the report, while noting that so far the Fire Department has added 15 paramedic-staffed ambulances and 20 medical supervisors to improve emergency medical service to city residents. “There’s a whole host of things that have gone on,” he said.


Unionist Criticized

The call for Manning’s ouster failed to evoke a comment from any of the four commissioners who attended Thursday’s weekly meeting. But Commission President Kenneth S. Washington said that Hurtado’s statement on emergency medical service deficiencies was not a “very responsible presentation.”

Hurtado, who criticized the department’s movement on emergency services last month, said that paramedics have witnessed a “spectacle of studies” identifying the same problems and recommending the same solutions without solving basic problems that existed when Manning became chief more than six years ago.

Hurtado acknowledged that the department has made some progress in improving emergency services. But he insisted that response times are still “too long in many cases,” paramedics are still awaiting workload relief in busy areas and firefighters are not participating in the emergency medical service response system in sufficient numbers.


Chief’s Reaction

Manning again characterized Hurtado’s call for his removal as “ridiculous.”

“I have no intention of resigning,” he said.

Hurtado has often criticized Manning over the workload carried by paramedics. He has charged that fire-suppression elements of the Fire Department have been slow in embracing emergency medical service because they fear their status and mission will be diminished.


Hurtado’s charges came at a time when the Fire Department faces a contract-negotiating deadline set by Dr. Jeff Clawson, a Salt Lake City consultant hired on a 12-month agreement last year to install his medical priority dispatching protocols in Los Angeles.

Clawson, medical director of the Salt Lake City Fire Department, said Thursday that his company, Medical Priorities Consultants, has given the Fire Department until next week to respond to a new contract proposal or face the firm’s possible withdrawal from the Los Angeles project.