Sussex Paramedics Vocal in Opposition to Possible Cuts - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Reported by Michael Lopardi

Sussex Paramedics Vocal in Opposition to Possible Cuts

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(Photo: WBOC) (Photo: WBOC)

GEORGETOWN, Del.- Sussex County paramedics say they are worried they could become the latest target of state budget cuts, and they are making a visible effort to pressure lawmakers against reduced funding.

The Sussex County Paramedic Association has sent out a letter opposing any potential cuts saying "they will adversely impact patient care."

The letter, signed by the association's president and vice president, acknowledged the tough economic climate but added, "reducing our funding could result in slower responses, drastically reduce the level of service we are able to provide and adversely affect the quality of life for all our citizens."

The association includes paramedics from Sussex County Emergency Medical Services but is not a government agency.

The state budget for the next fiscal year is not due for months, but county leaders say reduced state funding is an ongoing trend that they expect to strike again for the upcoming budget.

Sussex County EMS said further reductions could lead to staff cuts and delayed response times.

Acting Director Bob Stuart said the county has eight EMS stations that cost more than $1 million each to operate annually. Stuart said a 10 percent cut in funding could close one of those facilities.

"I think it will dramatically impact our ability to deliver care the way we deliver care today," Stuart said.

The department is expected to handle roughly 20,000 calls this year, a nearly 60 percent increase over the last decade. During the same time period, state funding has dropped, said County Administrator David Baker.

"Our budget is very lean this year and it could mean some cuts in the types of service we provide," Baker said.

Baker said the state provided 60 percent of paramedic funding in 1990. That was reduced to 50 percent in 2004 and 40 percent in 2005. Baker said, historically speaking, state leaders are due for another attempt at reducing funding.

County paramedics likely will not be alone in their fears of budget cuts. They have to compete with numerous other state agencies and organizations that also want taxpayer money. At the same time, Delaware is facing an anticipated $253 million budget gap for the upcoming fiscal year.

Stuart said providing top care requires funds to replace aging equipment and train staff. The acting director said a worst-case scenario would involve the closing of three EMS stations and the reorganization of county units, but it depends on funding. Stuart said personnel costs amount to nearly 90 percent of the budget.

For now, Stuart said the county and state are trying to reach a compromise. They likely will not know the final result until a budget is passed sometime in the Summer.

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