Discussion over outsourcing paramedics heats up - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Discussion over outsourcing paramedics heats up

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(WMC-TV) - First responders in Memphis are upset over whispers that the city is considering to outsource paramedics to save money.

The discussion is all part of the pension reform fight. The city says the pension fund is going to bust. First responders say true safety has a price.

Memphis Fire Association President Thomas Malone is outraged by the proposed restructuring of Emergency Medical Services.

"We have people in place for reasons," said Memphis Fire Association President Thomas Malone. "They're talking about doing away with EMS. This is a real public safety issue."

Currently, firefighters have dual duties both fighting fires and serving as paramedics.

The city released its latest "Framework for Pension Financing" proposal, which includes a plan to "restructure EMS."

"There have been a number of strategies, a lot of options talked about. I don't know if anything is set in stone," said Memphis Fire Department Director Alvin Benson.

But Benson says he does know one thing: the city is in a money crunch.

"We know that things do have to change," he said.

The city says the pension fund is in the red $709 million. The fire union says it is in the red $301 million.

The Memphis City Council, with no dog in the fight, is hiring its own analyst to come up with its own number.

Benson says there is no timeline on the ultimate solution to the city's pension crisis, and some ideas will require further analysis.

Residents feel trepidation about the whole debate.

"Paramedics, the fire department, and police department, we need them. They're our backbone when things happen," said Memphis resident Bret Malone.

The fire director says the city will not compromise the community.

"Not ever at the expense of public safety," said Benson.

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