Ambulances Are a Very Big Deal
Kansas City is considering changing the way it operates its ambulances. Currently, they are managed by an independent entity, MAST, and some in city government would like to bring the operation in-house. I don’t know whether or not this is a good idea. Generally, closer cooperation between a fire department and emergency medical techs is a good thing, and if combining them into one agency achieves that, then go for it. However, the Star article does not make it clear whether or not the two entities would be merged, or whether the ambulances would remain separate from the fire department — in which case, I would be less supportive. (Note: Since first writing this, I have found this PrimeBuzz link that says it would be a merger.)
The real point I want to share is how commonly this issue is debated. New York City debated it, and I believe moved forward with it in 1995. Boston is considering doing the same right now. Each of these articles, about New York and Boston, cites St. Louis — which merged its ambulance service into the fire department in 1997. This turned out to be very successful, from everything I can tell. This same issue has been similarly debated in St. Charles County.
Not surprisingly, these disputes often involve a union element, with representatives of both firemen and EMTs trying to preserve their respective turf. This is where strong leadership is needed, to overcome the natural bureaucratic opposition to such changes. I wish Kansas City’s Mayor Mark Funkhouser good luck in that regard — although I should be clear that I have no idea whether the current head of MAST should stay or go.