Union president says help was delayed for injured Cleveland firefighters hit by car

CLEVELAND - During an emotional speech on Wednesday, Tom Lally, the president of Cleveland Fire Fighters Union Local 93, told Cleveland's Safety Committee that a dispute between firefighters and paramedics led to a delay in helping fire fighters hit by a car over the weekend.

Lally told city leaders Wednesday that a change in police over who is in charge of the scene hit a low mark Sunday when paramedics argued over when to transport injured firefighters to the hospital. Sunday morning, Cleveland firefighters were responding to a disabled vehicle on Interstate 480, when three of them were hit by a car.

Lally said nearly two years ago the city put EMS in charge of incident command instead of the fire department.

Lally told the safety committee the change means that the first EMS ambulance on the scene of a multi-injury crash does not have to transport any victims, but instead takes over incident command and triage until a second EMS unit arrives.

Lally called the change a "flawed policy" and said there was a dispute between fire fighters telling EMS to transport the most seriously hurt fire fighter at the scene instead of waiting for the second ambulance.

But EMS said they could only act as incident command until the second EMS ambulance arrived, Lally said. A firefighter ended up driving another injured firefighter to the hospital.

The city has been talking for years about merging EMS and the fire department, which has created some disagreements over policy. Later on Wednesday, Safety Director Marty Flask asked the fire chief and the EMS director for an investigation into what happened on I-480 and see if a policy change is needed.

Lally said the policy could mean a delay in treating anyone involved in an accident in Cleveland.

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