Change to fire-based EMS in Muncie could cost county paramedics their jobs

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MUNCIE, Ind. – A push to create a new city-based ambulance service in Muncie is creating some controversy.

The new plans were introduced at Monday night's city council meeting and it could mean some Delaware County EMS crews are out of a job.

The council chambers were packed with county paramedics and their families. Dozens of residents spoke out against the new plans.

"Everyone knows what the red ambulances look like when they see them. Everyone knows who we are," said Delaware County EMS Paramedic, Kyle Thomas.

Fire Chief Eddie Bell announced the proposal for fire-based emergency services. They would be provided out of six of the seven fire stations in the city.

According to the proposal, the city would provide both Basic Life Support Services (BLS) and Advanced Life Support Services (ALS). The city would have to contract ALS services to paramedics. Bell said they would need around 16 certified paramedics.

The new plans come with a lot of questions from city council members, including if this business plan would be the most cost effective for the city. Bell said he compared the services to similar size cities.

"Nothing against Delaware County EMS. We respect the services and the jobs that the guys do, but our response times are better. We think we can make things better for the citizens and actually charge a lesser rate," Bell said.

Not everyone agrees that the plan is the best for the city and the city's budget.

"There’s no way for the city to argue it’s cheaper for the city budget, because they currently pay us nothing," said Delaware County EMS Director, Jason Rogers.

Chief Bell argued it won't cost taxpayers.

"We will use monies from my budget and also the RFP’s again will have to deal with some of that," Bell said. "Hopefully we’ll be able to defer some of the financing for some of the vehicles of that sort to a later date."

Bell said new ambulances could cost the city about $100,000 each and the city would need six of them.

If the ordinance passed, it would mean a county ambulance service that's been around for 40 years could be slashed in half. It could happen as early as May of next year. That would mean dozens of veteran county paramedics would be out of a job with less than a year notice.

"Christmas is three weeks away and people are wondering if they’re gonna get notices that layoffs are coming in a week," Thomas said.

Bell said he understands the timing isn't good, but that in the end, it's up to the city controller or mayor to decide who should provide EMS services for Muncie.

"It’s not a good situation for anybody, but I think people need to understand that since 1977 The City of Muncie has allowed Delaware County EMS to come in and provide that service for free. What we’re saying now is it’s time for the Muncie Fire Department to step up, do fire based EMS and provide that service for our citizens ourselves," Bell stated.

During the council meeting, many members questioned the business model and asked for more information on run times and potential costs and revenue for the city. Council members voted to send the ordinance to committee before the next hearing on January 8.

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