On Thursday, UConn Health announced it will no longer operate a standalone fire department and its associated paramedic services at its Farmington campus.
UConn officials said this is due to “ongoing fiscal pressures.”
In a press release, UConn officials said they are ending the tradition, and moving toward a “more standard model in which fire services are provided by surrounding municipalities and some retained personnel.”
The change will take effect on June 1, 2017.
“Given the long and proud tradition associated with the UConn Health fire department, this was not an easy decision,” said UConn Health CEO Dr. Andrew Agwunobi in a press release. “However, UConn Health has to make such hard choices to protect its core mission of research, teaching and patient care while dealing with the reality of financial pressures.”
“The town of Farmington understands the fiscal challenges facing UConn Health and the state of Connecticut. The town of Farmington fire department is committed to providing the same high level of service to UConn Health that it does throughout the rest of the town,” said Town Manager Kathleen Eagen. “The proposed model developed by UConn Health will retain personnel on the campus to handle non-emergency activities. Our fire department will work collaboratively with UConn Health to assure that this change does not put an undue burden on the town of Farmington’s fire department.”
The health center's firefighters met on Thursday afternoon to go over the disappointing details.
The 19 men and women who serve as firefighters, paramedics, and EMTs are all losing their jobs in the move designed to save the state money.
“Today, at 11 p.m., I spoke with the CEO of the health center to confirm the news that as of June 1 this campus would be closed down as a fire department,” said Stephen McDuell, union president of the UConn Health Center Fire Department.
He said the move is a slap in the face.
“We don't get enough credit for what we do. We work very hard, we're here 24/7, we spend more time here than we do with their family and dedicate to everybody that's here in the facility,” McDuell said.
Local departments, including Farmington and West Hartford will pick up the slack.
Firefighters warn that dealing with the hazardous materials at the hospital will be a major challenge and the layoffs are a threat to safety.
It is unclear exactly how much money this move will save.
The union says the Southbury training school is also slated to close. If that happens, about 30 firefighters will lose their jobs.
Lori J. Pelletier, president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, issued a statement on Friday.
“These workers provide a vital service to UConn and the Southbury Training School and to simply eliminate their jobs will put both facilities at risk," Pelletier said. "The neighboring fire communities, which are expected to take over for the laid off workers, will struggle to handle all of the calls from UConn and Southbury in addition to the calls in their local towns, which is an obvious threat to safety."
Pelletier argued that budgets should not be balanced on the backs of firefighters and other public service workers.
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