The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) won’t dispatch its firefighters to potential coronavirus calls, as the city leaves it in the hands of EMTs and paramedics, according to the New York Post (which bizarrely opens their article with: “They’re not the Bravest when it comes to the coronavirus.”)
The department issued an order Friday temporarily relieving firefighters from responding to calls of the second highest priority for patients with fever, coughing, difficulty breathing or even those who are unconscious.
A fever, cough and trouble breathing are the most common symptoms of the novel coronavirus, officially called COVID-19. –New York Post.
“Effective immediately, the following call types will temporarily not receive a [certified first responder] response,” states paperwork obtained by the New York Daily News.
According to the report, paramedics are shocked at the decision:
“We can’t believe they would put out this order during one of the biggest citywide health crises. The fact that they’re abdicating all of this is just astounding,” said one first responder. “You’re talking about people who call themselves the Bravest.” Alternatively, you’re talking about people whose job it is to fight fires – not contract a hyper-virulent disease that would prevent them from fighting fires… as opposed to an EMT, whose job description includes likely exposure to pathogens.
“They would literally lose the firehouse. If you lose the house, the response times go through the roof,” said one veteran paramedic, while the Post notes that at least 30 Seattle-area firefighters were placed under quarantine after responding to a nursing home where coronavirus erupted.
“It puts everyone at risk. It puts EMS workers at risk, when we don’t have the resources. It puts the lives of New Yorkers at risk if they’re not on scene,” said EMS lieutenant Anthony Almojera, vice president of Local 3621 of the FDNY Uniformed EMS Officers.
“If this thing really takes off — we have the state of emergency now — these kids aren’t going to be able to handle it,” said Almojera, noting that there are a lot of rookies in the EMS ranks.
All FDNY firefighters are certified first responders, and will continue to respond to the highest priority cases such as cardiac arrest or choking, said FDNY spokesman Frank Dwyer.
“Firefighters continue to respond to the highest priority medical calls, whether they are potential COVID-19 calls or not including … cardiac and respiratory arrests, choking, and trauma incidents,” Dwyer said. –New York Post.
City Councilman Joseph Borelli, who also serves as chairman of the fire and emergency management committee, called the restriction “a smart idea,” according to the Post. “It seems like a logical way to reduce the number of people who come in close contact with coronavirus patients,” he added. “Someone complaining of flu-like symptoms doesn’t need an engine company with five firefighters.“
That said, the new order comes amid a “critical shortage” of EMT staff.