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Identity & Community

After Nearly 40 Years at Pittsburgh EMS, Mark Bocian To Become Chief

Liz Reid
90.5 WESA

Mark Bocian has been Pittsburgh’s Acting Chief of  the Bureau of Emergency Medical Services for more than two years now, but City Council indicated in their Wednesday committee meeting that the wait for final confirmation is nearly over.

Bocian was met with resounding approval, as lawmaker after lawmaker extolled his virtues and thanked him for his service.

That service stretches back to 1975, when Bocian was hired as an Emergency Medical Technician, or EMT.

“Then I became a paramedic, and actually rose through the ranks in pretty much every position available: crew chief, district supervisor, district chief, assistant chief, deputy chief, and now chief,” Bocian said.

Council quizzed Bocian on a number of topics, in a conversation that focused more on the bureau and its accomplishments as a whole than on the acting chief himself. 

“We have one of the highest survival rates in the country for cardiac arrest (at) 17 percent. Just ten years ago, it was 4 percent,” Bocian said.

According to the American Heart Association, the national rate hovers around 10 percent.

But, Bocian said he’d like to see Pittsburgh increase its cardiac arrest survival rate to 20 percent, a goal he said is achievable if more citizens become trained in CPR. Additionally, he wants all city personnel to become trained in CPR.

That and other proposed initiatives would require the city to invest more in a bureau that is chronically short staffed. Bocian said an aging population has led to an increase in the number of calls it gets, and to compound to the problem, EMS is having a hard time finding qualified paramedics to fill open positions.

Futhermore, said Bocian, the diversity of bureau personnel does not reflect the makeup of the city, something he’d like to improve.

“I think the only way to do that is, instead of waiting for people to come to us, to reach out and develop some programs through the schools … and reinstate the diversity program we had several years ago,” he said.

But Bocian said he is used to doing more with less, and that some of his ideas, like increasing the number of automatic defibrillator machines in city buildings, could potentially be funded by grants.

“As chief, I’d love to have forty more ambulances,” Bocian said. “I’d like to have one on every corner, but you have to work with what you can fiscally do. It’s a constant battle.”