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[UPDATED] Second Letter Emerges in EMS Saga

A letter undersigned by 50 Stratford EMS members supports restructuring the service.

Updated 10 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11

A second letter that concerns the fate of Stratford EMS has been sent out to town officials and the community.

This one, unlike the first (read below), supports the direction of EMS director Philip Onofrio and his goal to create the position(s) of a paid or volunteer supervisor within the agency.

It is undersigned by 50 EMS members.

"The nature of EMS and public safety demands 24/7 supervision," Lt. Kevin Giasullo wrote. "Time periods exist in which 12-18 hours at a time are left with no EMS supervision except an 'officer on call.' Operational issues arise that demand the timeliness of having a supervisor on duty to respond."

[Read the letter in full by clicking on the attached PDF.]

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Editor's note: This article has been updated to include comments from Stratford EMS director Philip Onofrio.

No internal cuts would happen as a result of the addition of one or more volunteer or paid supervisors at Stratford EMS, the agency's director Philip Onofrio said in an interview Thursday.

"I'm attempting to revitalize the volunteer component of the EMS," said Onofrio. Since he got the gig earlier this year, Onofrio said there's been an increase in new and returning EMS volunteers. 

The director said a volunteer supervisor would have more responsibilities than a volunteer lieutenant or captain. In order to hire a full-time paid EMS supervisor, Onofrio said he would have to "prove a return on the investment to the Town Council."

Earlier this week, four EMS volunteers released a letter that argued the new position(s) would result in cuts to volunteer personnel. The open letter reads: "Last Wednesday Philip Onofrio, the Director of Stratford EMS, informed the volunteer officers of Stratford EMS that their positions have been terminated effective in October."

Onofrio said, while he could see where the four EMS volunteers, including Capt. Jonathan Best, were coming from, "their representation was misleading and incorrect. I don't know what they feel the threat is," he said.

"By simply changing internal titles, the public is not at risk" and volunteers who are not selected for the new position(s) won't lose their spot at Stratford EMS, Onofrio said, adding that there are many agencies in the state that use the same system he is trying to implement.

"A vast majority of volunteer membership is in favor of reconstruction," he said.

The original story follows:

EMS volunteers and officers said they learned last week that come October their positions will be terminated.

"A management structure more common in the private commercial ambulance industry" will start to be implemented next month, they wrote in a letter to the town and the community at large.

The three lieutenants and one captain who undersigned the letter said the shift poses "serious concerns" to the welfare of the community. 

"The success of Stratford EMS has been based upon the dedication and contributions of volunteers at all levels," they wrote. "...EMS is not a bottomless pit of funds and the volunteer system is what makes it work."

Read the letter in full by clicking on the attached PDF.

Stratford Patch will continue to provide updates on this story as they are made available.

Gringo_man October 11, 2011 at 07:28 PM
It sure got quiet in here.
Rocky Vitale October 13, 2011 at 01:06 AM
As a "retired" member of Stratford EMS with over 30 years of service, I can attest first hand at the need for supervision especially on the overnight shift. One of the reasons I left the service was the amoral things that I observed and was powerless to stop. I must say it did not cause any detriment to patient care, the medical care is top notch. However, it discouraged new members from staying and was distasteful to a long time member. No matter how it is done, careful supervision is needed, first hand ride alongs and evaluations of both volunteer and paid members.
RC January 12, 2012 at 03:10 AM
After reading all the postings, this is doesn't surprise me at all. All the finger pointing needs to stop, and allow Mr. Onofrio the opportunity to do his job. I understand that change is not pleasant, but, once its change has occurred, you can either embrace it or then collectively and constructively make changes to tweak it. I understand that this service has been a mixed service for many years, but I do think that perhaps an evaluation of whether a split service ( paid and volunteer ) or an all paid service should be in place. I think that's what is expected when residents call for service. EMS is a PROFESSION, not something that we simply do in our spare time as a hobby. Would you call a plumber,or electrician who does it as a hobby to work on your home?? I really don't think so. I'm not bashing the spirit of volunteerism, perhaps keeping the volunteers available a a resource for staffing large events, stand by's and can ride along with the paid staff to gain experience. What happened to " Lets treat people like we would like our families to be treated. From what I've seen throughout my short time as a resident, I'm certainly NOT impressed. This certainly concerns me, as an EMS professional and RESIDENT. To be very honest, I'd be very hard pressed to call for service. Please remember" perception is reality! I certainly hope that some positive changes do come to Stratford EMS .
Jezebel282 January 12, 2012 at 12:54 PM
RC, I am honestly shocked and disappointed in your post. Having had the unfortunate experience of calling upon Stratford EMS on multiple occasions (nobody ever wants to call an ambulance) I can personally attest that the level of care provided was the highest possible. In fact there was absolutely no difference in the talent and effectiveness of either paid or volunteer crews. As an "EMS professional" you must certainly be aware of the training requirements for any EMT regardless of pay status: http://svemsassociation.com/Course/Course_Syllabus_Spring_2012.html. That doesn't include rigorous State and National testing. Having watched these dedicated citizens perform their skills for no pay, benefit or recognition, I can only come to the conclusion that we, as residents, are blessed by their presence. In fact, as so often was the case, after treating and transporting my patient, the crew would have left before I had the chance to thank them. As for "professionalism" being dictated by the enormous sum of $17-$21 per hour for EMT's, please feel free to request the services of AMR the next time you call Dispatch. I will be perfectly happy for myself to have the dedicated volunteers of Stratford EMS get here first and help me.
George E. Mulligan January 12, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Sept 16, I went to walk in clinic. MD told me I had leg infection & get to Hospital. EMS were tremendous. ST V. has remarkable Emergency room & staff. I knew 2 of the on call EMS Volunteers from politics. Gavin Forester III + Robert Calzone. Both have something like 20 years as volunteers. Bob had a great job with SO. CT. GAS. He now works with a professional Ambulance Service AND STILL DOES VOLUNTEER EMS. These people do for LOVE of PEOPLE, what some do for money. I'm not capable of doing EMS/EMT/MD/Nurse type work! I admire these people. They have to take certain training and must be certified & capable. They NEVER work alone. I believe there are normally at least 2 to usually 3 on each call. I have my learies, like everyone else related to volunteer vs. pros. There is a need for paid supervision. However the people who are the core volunteers, like what Mr. Donofrio did, but rebuffed an attempt at 4 paid supervisors. They are growing & improving. They want to add 1 paid supervisor at a time, as the revenues and services increase, as long as things continue to grow in the right direction. Stratford does have many good paid workers and managment. However the political parties get involved with electing people who want to move OUT some PEOPLE to move IN some PEOPLE. This infects POLICE, FIRE, EDUCATION, PUBLIC WORKS, & everywhere. If there were NO politics and NO abuses, then paid management would likely get more support.

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