REMSA, the Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority for the Truckee Meadows, has been using Reno and Sparks Firefighters as free labor, since they began business in 1986. Our local Fire Departments are dispatched at the same time as REMSA, responding to the same Emergency calls. The lion’s share of those calls are MEDICAL in nature. Roughly 95 percent of our local Emergency Response Requests are Non Fire related. Yet fully equipped Firefighters with Advanced Emergency Medical Response training and years of experience, follow REMSA in their huge firetrucks, offering the best, most professional assistance that money can buy; free of charge.
The cities of Reno and Sparks are not compensated by REMSA for the manpower; the months and years of training necessary to make a professional Firefighter; the fuel used in the Firetrucks to accompany them; the Insurance carried on the Firefighters; nor the compensation paid to the people if they should be injured performing their duties. Firefighters HAVE hurt themselves hauling people on gurneys up or down dangerous stairs. REMSA pays those Firefighters ZERO in sick time, medical bills or any other form of compensation. ALL of those costs are born strictly by area Taxpayers. Who also get the privilege of paying REMSA’s No Bid/No Competition fees, directly out of their own pockets and insurance policies.
REMSA enjoyed a total income of $330 million dollars, according to their 2010 tax returns. And, they only employ 330 people. REMSA bills itself as a “non-profit community service” on their website, which means they don’t pay the City of Reno a Franchise Fee. They are also the “exclusive ground and helicopter ambulance provider for Washoe County” while claiming they offer “the lowest competitive price.” Who, exactly, are they competing with? How can they use our Firefighters for free and claim they’re a community service?
This isn’t to say that REMSA itself does a bad job. They hire great people to perform miraculous duties in a rough occupation. The people who do the actual work at REMSA have proven time and again that they are brave, dedicated, community-minded professionals. The excellent service and swift help they provided after the tragic events which unfolded at Sparks Middle School in late October, stand as mute testimony to their skills. And, they provide other great services, like their Nurse Health Line which allows you to speak to a Nurse 24/7 to get your emergency medical questions answered, free.
This is merely pointing out that Reno/Sparks/Washoe County citizens could reallocate $330 million dollars a year, if the City and County simply rented or purchased the Ambulances. We have the necessary Skilled Professionals available, already on staff. Which says nothing of the the additional tax savings. We are currently supporting a Fire Department already stretched so thin we periodically close some of them, just to save money.
OR – and this is what some insiders are saying would be the best solution on a number of levels – the City of Reno could start requiring REMSA to stop using our Firefighters for free, and start charging the non-profit organization for the use and dispatch or our people. That would only be fair.