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Readers' Letters: True cost of ambulance service much higher

Regarding the story (Drawing a line on ambulance services, May 30), here are a few facts that get lost whenever this issue comes up.

There is actually no such thing as a dual role of firefighter/paramedic. Every fire engine and truck is required to be staffed with a certain number of personnel to be operational. Every ambulance in Multnomah County is required to be staffed with two paramedics. The Portland Fire Bureau cannot use the personnel from an engine or truck to staff an ambulance. So, in order to operate ambulances, the Fire Bureau would have to hire more personnel.

A PFB paramedic would cost close to double in wages and benefits what a private paramedic costs. Firefighters deserve every penny they make, but it is an inescapable fact that they make a lot more than private-sector paramedics.

Additionally, there would need to be more PFB paramedics than the current number of private paramedics. This is because the Fire Bureau is not going to have its personnel sitting on street corners and moving from post to post in order to maintain coverage, like private companies do, when the number of available units is reduced by active calls.

As Randy Lauer of American Medical Response pointed out, all the money that city officials think is going to fill the city’s coffers just isn’t going to materialize. What really would happen is that citizens would still get the same or higher bills for ambulance services and they would pay more in taxes to cover the additional labor costs of PFB personnel.

The city also would have to either hire personnel to do billing and collections or pay to contract it out.

In March of 1994 (Measure 26-2), the citizens voted against the Portland Fire Bureau taking over ambulance transport services. They would vote no again once they understood the true cost.

Charles Savoie

Milwaukie

CRC is least of Washington’s worries

I understand the Portland Tribune may not be up to speed on the state of Washington’s bridges and roads (Flawed thinking will sink I-5 bridge plan, May 30). However, I’d recommend the editors read The Seattle Times or look at reports from the Washington Department of Transportation before talking about our state’s legislative priorities for transportation safety.

The May 28 Seattle Times documented seven Washington bridges that are fracture-critical and have clearances as low as the Skagit River bridge (an Interstate 5 span that partially collapsed May 23 near Mount Vernon, Wash.); the Columbia River Crossing is not among them. And as WSDOT’s Gray Notebook documents, Washington has a large backlog of maintenance needs, from pavement condition to bridge spans. We have more than 100 structurally deficient bridges. The CRC is not one of them.

Your editorial cited ages of bridges but failed to note the millions of dollars we’ve invested in upgrading and maintaining the current I-5 bridge spans over the years, including in 1990, 1999 and 2005, or the dedicated maintenance crew it currently enjoys.

It also failed to note the ODOT assessment that the current I-5 bridge over the Columbia has 55 years of life left in it, and the ODOT assessment that the bridge is structurally sound. One could also talk to ODOT’s Traffic Safety Division about the top dangers and safety priorities, and find the CRC not on the list.

The lesson from the dramatic Skagit River bridge collapse is simple and undramatic: it’s time to focus on the basics.

We have to fix what we have, and make sure our transportation system is safe for everyone to get around — from long-haul truck drivers to kids riding their bicycles to grandparents walking in their neighborhoods.

Investing in pet projects like the CRC (mainly a five-mile highway expansion) is an example of misplaced priorities.

Evan Manvel

Director of Policy, Planning and Government Affairs

Cascade Bicycle Club

Seattle, Wash.

Writing about women not the same as for men

The article on Dr. Susan Hayflick (Lonely Search For a Cure, May 23) was good, but I had to wonder why in stories about women, writers so often feel compelled to focus on appearance, in this case describing Dr. Hayflick as not radiating charisma?

In the face of her fabulous work, who cares? To reinforce my case, simply turn to the first page of the second section (From curb to college to ... Congress?) There is no mention of any physical traits of Patrick Stupfel. Why not? Could it be that it was written by a woman, and the Hayflick article by a man? Does appearance matter that much?

Penelope Lichatowich

Northeast Portland