Weekly editorial recap

WEDNESDAY
FIREFIGHTER FEARS

Local firefighter unions see American Medical Response paramedics not as partners at emergencies, but as a huge threat to their inflated compensation. In waging a legal and public relations war against AMR, which is under contract with Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Clark County to transport patients, the firefighter unions have a clear goal: force AMR out of business in the valley so fire departments can handle all patient transports, monopolize the revenue that comes with the responsibility and thereby avoid pay cuts and layoffs.

The unions, through news releases and advertisements, claim AMR provides poor services and puts the public at risk. In reality, AMR easily meets the requirements of its contracts, responding to emergencies by established deadlines (generally 12 minutes) more than 90 percent of the time. According to Clark County officials, AMR exceeds performance standards. And AMR workers do it despite being paid less than half what average firefighters are paid in total compensation.

Those numbers, not response times, scare firefighter unions more than anything.

The case can be made that, given local government budget woes, fire departments can lay off workers, leave patient transport to the private sector and focus on fires, rescues and hazardous materials accidents.

But when Las Vegas firefighters recently agreed to give up some pay raises, they demanded the city forgo studying the privatization of emergency medical services for two years. Now the soonest the city’s taxpaying public can learn of potential first-response savings is 2012.

The most chilling result of this dirty turf war has AMR workers, in the course of trying to help the injured and the dying, wondering whether firefighters who respond to the same calls are more concerned with being union spies.

The union attacks are an affront to taxpayers. Firefighters want to put more private-sector workers in the unemployment line so they don’t have to sacrifice? Outrageous.

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