AUSTIN (KXAN) - Every time one of Austin's emergency rooms on wheels goes out on a call, on board there are two trained paramedics.
"The paramedics we are hiring right now are getting associates degrees, for the most part," said Steve Stewart, president of Austin EMS Union .
That means they get between 800 and 1000 hours of training.
During a Public Safety Commission Meeting on Monday, EMS management, for the first time, publicly confirmed they are talking about staffing changes. Those changes, according to sources, would swap out a paramedic for an emergency medical technician in some, if not all, of Austin's ambulances.
EMTs in the state of Texas need 120 hours of training.
Stewart said they are not entirely opposed to the idea, but they don't know much about it because the City isn't really including them in the discussions.
"I don't know why they would not be wanting to work with us on this issue," Stewart said.
Mike Levy helped create Austin's current EMS system back in the late 1970s; he's also the vice-chair of Austin's Public Safety Commission
"You don't need to race the patient to the ER, you take the ER to the patient," said Levy.
Levy agrees with the union, and said they must be involved in any future talks regarding staffing changes. But while the union said if done properly the changes could be a good thing, Levy does not agree, especially if the City of Austin is looking at staffing changes as a way to cut cost.
"When you're dealing with human life this is absolutely the wrong place to do cost containment," said Levy.
Stewart said the savings would be roughly $6,000 per position -- savings he hopes the City would then turn around and invest some, into more training.
"If we're going to look at that, changing the staffing model, then I would like to see that it gets done in a positive manner for the citizens and the paramedics," said Stewart.
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