Fort Worth council approves switch to fire-based EMS system

May 23, 2024

Fort Worth establishes its own EMS system within fire department

As reported by Fort Worth Report, the Fort Worth City Council has unanimously approved a plan to establish its own emergency medical services (EMS) system within the fire department.

This decision will dissolve the area’s longtime EMS provider, MedStar.

Mayor Mattie Parker expressed pride in the council’s work, highlighting the coordination and careful consideration involved.

MedStar, serving over a million residents in Tarrant County for 38 years, will be dissolved.

The new model will see Fort Worth’s fire department taking over EMS services, with employees, including those from MedStar, responding solely to medical emergencies.

The transition cost is projected to be approximately $10 million.

Concerns and support from smaller cities and unions

Some smaller cities have expressed concerns about the impact of this transition on their residents and budgets.

Fort Worth staff emphasized their commitment to working with each city to reach beneficial agreements.

The new positions in the fire department will be sworn, offering the same civil service protections as firefighters, a move supported by both MedStar and the firefighter union IAFF 440.

“This is a big change, and we’re looking forward to it,” said Michael Glynn, president of the firefighter union IAFF 440.

Rising costs, increased call volumes, and declining reimbursements have made it difficult for MedStar to sustain itself independently, leading to this transition.

Analysis and recommendations from consulting firm

The decision followed months of work by a council committee and Fitch & Associates, a consulting firm hired in October to evaluate EMS services.

Fire-based EMS was one of four models proposed, ultimately recommended by the committee.

Council member Carlos Flores, chair of the committee, noted the unsustainable nature of the current EMS landscape, despite the dedication of MedStar staff.

“Let me be perfectly frank — the landscape of EMS services has changed drastically,” Flores said.

He praised MedStar staff for their dedication despite financial challenges, acknowledging the need for a sustainable model.

Resident concerns and council assurances

At the May 21 meeting, former mayoral candidate Adrian Smith was the lone voice against the switch, criticizing the council’s decision to dissolve MedStar.

Council member Elizabeth Beck addressed MedStar employees, assuring them of the city’s commitment to integrating them into the new system.

The new fire-based system will be evaluated on several metrics, including an 8-minute travel time for 90% of calls and a .5 unit hour utilization.

Mayor Pro Tem Gyna Bivens promised continued service and unified care for all residents.

The transition, expected to take 12-18 months, will coincide with improvements to the city’s 911 call center system, also being evaluated by Fitch & Associates.

“I think, council, that all of us are willing to continue to roll up our sleeves and do the good work to make sure we have the finest first responder system in the entire country,” Mayor Parker added.

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