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Lifesaving work is worth the cost

by: L.E. BASKOW, Portland firefighters have been responding more often to medical emergencies than blazes, requiring them to be trained EMTs or paramedics.

Having been on the receiving end of Portland Fire and Rescue, I can say from experience they saved my life (Sirens wail for medical calls, not fires, Oct. 2).

The engine company from Northeast 122nd Avenue and Sandy Boulevard was great. The cost is a problem, but it seems to me that the cops spend money like drunken sailors and they should instead spend our taxpayers' money on EMT services that have a very direct benefit.

Larry Cooper

Fairview

Firefighters' new role took cooperation

As one of those who worked in Portland Emergency Medical Services for two decades, I've been a part of this transformation, and it's good to see this sort of coverage (Sirens wail for medical calls, not fires, Oct. 2).

In the early '80s, Portland Fire Bureau did not respond to many EMS calls, but with the advent of the 911 system they began to respond to more and more calls.

The period of transition, which included the awarding of an ambulance service contract, the buyout of our local ambulance companies, and the evolution and transformation of the fire bureau's mission has been a fascinating study.

It has been a communitywide cooperative experience that I'm proud to say I was once a part of.

Gary Walter

Rainier, Wash.

Give ambulance paramedics credit

Reading your front-page story 'Sirens wail for medical calls, not fires' (Oct. 2) struck a note with me, but not because I was a patient of theirs.

Though I work with firefighters hand-in-hand virtually every day, I am not a public employee. I'm paid less than firefighter-paramedics, but have the exact same skill set and do vastly more patient care than they do on a daily basis.

I don't get a public pension, a fire station or on-duty training, and when news reporters write stories about emergency services, they tell us to stay out of their photos.

Who am I? I'm an ambulance paramedic in Multnomah County and my co-workers and I are the huge missing piece of your story.

Every single time an emergency medical call happens, we arrive with lights flashing. Every time a patient is transported to a hospital, whether CPR is being done or an arm is being splinted, we get them there safely. We provide the majority of 911 response emergency medical care, yet your story did not even mention us.

We love firefighters, and they are an indispensable partner in the work we do. They also are the ones who are at risk in fires, hazardous materials incidents, and who take charge on disasters.

However, by totally neglecting to mention ambulance paramedics, you have done us a disservice. But don't worry, we'll still be there every time you call for a medical problem.

We, too, are proud to serve.

Joseph Rabinowitz

Southeast Portland

Advice to newcomers: English spoken here

As an immigrant with a 4-year-old child at arrival, I speak from experience: Bill Sizemore's initiative does not go far enough (Bill Sizemore in the Hot Seat, Oct. 2).

Our 4-year-old had a hard time for the first six months, but within a year she spoke English as well as all the neighborhood kids she played with. When we came here there was no bilingual taxpayer-paid education and, as my experience shows, you do not need one.

Nobody forces immigrants to come here and those who come should know that this is an English-speaking country. We should spend more money in the schools teaching foreign languages, but as a second language to Americans - not a first language for immigrants.

Paul Fellner

Southwest Portland

Sisters interested in problem's root cause

Thank you for your article 'Turmoil spreads on Sisters' sidewalk' (Oct. 2). We have seen an increase lately in the traffic around Sisters of the Road Cafe. There are a number reasons for this: the newest sit-lie law that Sisters has openly opposed, the bus mall being a quiet street with less traffic, and the fact that efforts to move drug sales off other neighborhood corners have been successful lately.

Sisters traditionally has dealt with problems with a nonviolent approach using a community organizing model.

As a result, Sisters has begun to organize a neighborhood cleanup project in Old Town Chinatown and a community forum on drug use and violence.

Sisters always has strived to be a good member of the Old Town Chinatown family. We recognize our part in the neighborhood and work hard to fill it. For information about Sisters of the Road and our activities, please visit our Web site, www.sistersoftheroad.org, or stop by for a visit.

Patrick Nolen

Sisters of the Road community organizer

Northwest Portland

Restraints used in most judicious way

As a therapist at a Portland-area psychiatric hospital, I wish to inform you that restraints already are reported to an independent monitor called the Joint Council on Hospital Accreditation and hospitals are held accountable (Hospitals' use of restraints needs impartial monitor, Letters, Oct. 9).

But, let me also quote the writer of the original letter who said that abuse 'cannot be measured in something as clear as numbers.'

It is vital for the public to know that staff at my hospital do not use physical restraints for fun or convenience. We all are dedicated to providing quality mental health care in a safe environment.

We all attend regular quarterly training designed to both prevent the need for restraints and reduce the risk of injury to staff or patients during a restraint.

As a result of this dedication, we have decreased the number of restraints performed at our hospital and reduced the number of restraint-related injuries to staff and patients.

But, the decision to restrain is rarely within our control. Some patients are aggressively psychotic and others are willfully violent. Staff do try their best to avoid restraints, but when a patient presents a danger to themselves or others on our units and if they cannot be talked down or contained by any other means, then staff must maintain safety through physical intervention.

Benjamin Davidson

Southeast Portland