Public Safety
3:53 pm
Tue January 8, 2013

Commission Calls for Audit of Austin-Travis Co. EMS; Could Mull Merging EMS & Fire Repsonse

The City of Austin’s Public Safety Commission is recommending that the city auditor make a full examination of the Austin-Travis County EMS department.

Back in November, an audit found billing collection processes were so poor that EMS was at risk of having money stolen and not even realizing it. Issues this new audit would look at include inventive solutions to staffing levels, resources, overtime and more.

“There’s some complexities that I hope the city auditor can help us with,” Public Safety chair Michael Lauderdale says.

“Do we have frequent fliers [regular users of EMS resources]," Lauderdale continues.  "Do the hospitals feel – are people adequately cared for when they arrive there? … There’s also issues about their equipment being old, trucks that are not in repair.”

One possibility includes merging some EMS and Fire Department functions. Lauderdale says such a change would leverage resources, but must be approached carefully.

“There are a limited number of EMS stations here in Austin,” he says. “There’s a lot of fire stations … So in many cases, fire is arriving first and doing some EMS activities, and then EMS arrives later. So you’ll have citizens call and say, ‘Why do I see a hook-and-ladder truck in front of this house, and a little bit later, EMS gets there?’ And is that a prudent use of taxpayer resources?”

Still, Lauderdale adds “EMS in Austin and EMS in other parts of the country, have the concern that that might result in – in fact, they think strongly that it would result in – a lessening of the quality of EMS if they are supervised by individuals who come from and have a primary orientation with regard to fire,“ Lauderdale says.  

It’s now up to the Austin City Council whether to act on the commission’s recommendation.