“While the configuration, which is essentially a shift change for single-role providers, may have its advantages, I am troubled that the department appears to be moving forward with such a major change without even the knowledge of its stakeholders,” Mr. Mendelson wrote to Chief Ellerbe in a letter dated Oct. 18, adding that “the public has a right to know about any changes to the delivery of emergency medical care.”
The council chairman, a Democrat, cited a provision of D.C. law that says the council must approve any major “changes in the manner the department provides medical services.”
Mr. Mendelson did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday.
Chief Ellerbe indicated that the plan is not complete. He briefed representatives of the paramedics’ and firefighters’ unions Tuesday and said he also would seek input from the council and the public.
Anne Renshaw, president of the D.C. Federation of Citizens Associations, said the idea of redeploying paramedics has been tested in the department at least three times since the late 1980s but was never well-received.
Ms. Renshaw, who frequently testifies on emergency medical services issues before the D.C. Council on behalf of the federation, cautioned that as department officials weigh deployment decisions they keep in mind what is at stake if their plan fails.
“Any plan such as this has to be done very carefully. There is the human element that factors in,” she said. “We just want to have the safety of the citizens at the uppermost in their mind.”
The redeployment is not the first controversial plan introduced by Chief Ellerbe since he took office in January 2011. He broached the prospect of changing firefighters’ 24-hour shifts to 12 hours — a move that the chief acknowledged would result in the loss through attrition of as many as 475 sworn firefighters from a total of about 1,800 in the city.
The department and union are still engaged in negotiations over the schedule change and are barred from discussing it.