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New Schedule Means Less Overtime For Pittsburgh EMS

Kathleen J. Davis
90.5 WESA

Beginning next year, paramedics and emergency medical technicians for the City of Pittsburgh will work 12-hour shifts, instead of the current eight-hour shifts.

This change comes as part of a new contract signed last week between the city and EMS union, the Fraternal Association of Professional Paramedics Local 1

Though this new contract means emergency services workers will be logging longer shifts, the city said it will reduce demand for forced overtime. That means EMS workers won’t be pulling as many double shifts, which will lead to shorter work days and more days off over all.

“Many of them, in essence, are going from longer shift durations, which we know is more problematic for fatigue and safety, down to a short shift with more days off,” said Daniel Patterson, an emergency medicine researcher at the University of Pittsburgh.

This year Patterson was part of a team that put out suggested guidelines on preventing EMS fatigue, which can lead to serious mistakes.One of the recommendations was shorter shifts.

Another difference with the new contract is that instead of the schedule changing every month, EMS staff will rotate shifts every three months. Patterson said the consistency means EMS workers will be better rested.

“Your body needs a little bit of time to adapt,” he said. “With this new change they are giving the clinicians an opportunity to spend some new time adapting to the schedule, whether they’re three months on daylight or three months on night. And that will be a positive.”

Pittsburgh EMS chief Ronald Romano said that the current eight-hour schedule has been in place for 43 years.

“I think it’s exciting … we’re changing,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll give the personnel a better work schedule.”

Romano said the new schedule enables the number of round-the-clock EMS units in Pittsburgh to expand from 10 to 13.

The union did not respond to requests for comment.

The city says this new schedule begins on Jan. 1.

Sarah Boden covers health and science for 90.5 WESA. Before coming to Pittsburgh in November 2017, she was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio. As a contributor to the NPR-Kaiser Health News Member Station Reporting Project on Health Care in the States, Sarah's print and audio reporting frequently appears on NPR and KFF Health News.