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Raytown Considers Moving EMS To Fire Department In Hopes Of Improving Service

Celisa Calacal/KCUR 89.3

The city of Raytown, Missouri is considering transferring its Emergency Medical Services department to the Raytown Fire Protection District.

Discussions about this transfer began in May, and it is the third time in 20 years that Raytown has considered this transfer. If approved, the deal would go into effect Nov. 17.

The negotiations come as recent staffing issues resulted in the city only having one ambulance, with Kansas City often providing backup. Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, Raytown Fire Chief Matt Mace said Kansas City handled 166 EMS calls for Raytown so far this year. Last year, Kansas City responded to 305 EMS calls.

City administrator Damon Hodges said one of the goals of the transfer is to decrease response times and increase services by adding additional ambulances and personnel. If the transfer is approved, Raytown would have two fully staffed ambulances available 24/7 and then an additional third ambulance if the department is fully staffed.

"We know that our citizens deserve the efficient operations that they should have," he said. "And so we’re working with this staff and with the fire department to provide those efficient operations."

The potential transfer would require residents to approve new taxes. While the city is still unsure of the exact amount, Mace estimates a levy rate around 15 cents. This may pose a problem for the Raytown Fire Department, given that voters rejected three tax measures in August. Mace said he believes the department has proven its efficiency to the city to warrant residents’ support.

"With our aging population they need these services they need these things," Mace added. "And we’re an essential service that they have to have."

With this transfer, current EMS employees face the difficult question: What will happen to their job? Mace said the 13 full-time EMS medics would be given first opportunity to transfer to the Raytown Fire Protection District. Mace added that employees will be cross-trained to fulfill dual roles as both a paramedic or firefighter depending on the emergency.

"Paramedics and EMTs on an ambulance will be firefighters when a fire comes out,” he said. "They will be paramedics and EMTs on the pumpers when an EMS call comes. They’re going to fulfill whatever role the city needs at that point in time."

It is not unusual for cities to consolidate its EMS department into its fire district. In Liberty, Missouri, emergency and fire services fall under one department.

Raytown has recently faced steep budget cuts. In fall 2017, cuts to the city’s police department resulted in 14 officers resigning.

Celisa Calacal is an intern at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter at @celisa_mia.

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