HFD Hosts Open House For Paramedics

Department hopes the event will help solve a shortage of emergency personnel.

David Almaguer, assistant fire chief for emergency medical services
David Almaguer, assistant fire chief for emergency medical services, speaks at Tuesday’s open house.

A staffing shortage is one of many issues the Houston Fire Department (HFD) faces. The department especially needs paramedics.

David Almaguer, assistant fire chief for emergency medical services, was impressed with the mix of men and women from fire departments in other cities. He said HFD can’t afford to wait for people to complete the paramedic training at the fire academy.

“What is does for us, is it brings on board somebody who already has that certification as a paramedic, and keeps that entire training process that would be over a year that we wouldn’t have them in the pool,” he said. “So, we can go straight to the level of the Houston paramedic, and get them out on the street and serving the public in a much shorter amount of time.”

Paramedics heard the pitch from Dr. David Persse, who started out as a paramedic before heading the fire department’s emergency medical services.

“We’re not looking for just any paramedics,” he said. “We’re looking for good paramedics.

“So if you’re a weak paramedic, if you really stink at the job, you probably don’t need to apply. Okay, I’m sure that nobody in this room fits that. But the point being that, we’re not doing transfers all day long. We’re taking care of the whole gambit, and a lot of times we’re doing CPR on people and pulling hunks of food from their airway or delivering their child, or something like that. And there’s really no room for a weak paramedic in a system like that.”

Persse said he wants paramedics to help break the cycle of people being rushed to the emergency room with a problem that should have been fixed at the scene.

Captain Ruy Lozano said having experienced paramedics will save time and money:

“It saves a lot of time to be able to get paramedics in the streets quicker at a discount rate, because we won’t have to wait for certification,” he said. “And then, we just give them a quick orientation on how we do things – we call that ‘credentialing.’ We attach them to a seasoned medic, to kind of teach them the way we do things. They get tested on protocols, and they get released to practice on their own.”

Diamonique Harris, a Louisiana paramedic, said she would love to relocate to Houston:

“It’s kind of rad that I see something like this, this big,” she said.

She thinks working for HFD would greatly expand her knowledge of being an EMT.

“It would just bring a little bit more experience to the table for me. I want to expand more, anyway I can, knowledge, travel. It looks like a great opportunity and a great department to work with,” she said.

The department is looking to field a class of nationally registered paramedics that will complete a 6-month training course that will begin in October.

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