DETROIT (Michigan News Source) – As the state endures staffing shortages among first responders, fire fighters are attempting to stoke staffing solutions through legislation. 

Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union President Matt Sahr shared how staffing is a primary concern for the union, and that they’re hoping to partially address it through House Bill 4688. 

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“What we’re hoping to accomplish with [HB 4688] is to make staffing a mandatory subject of bargaining which is part of the public employee relations act,” MPFFU President Sahr said to Michigan News Source in an interview. “Right now the three things that are mandatory are wages, hours, and working conditions, and we want to add staffing into that.” 

According to Sahr, staffing would not become required, but at least be a topic open for discussion. 

“It’s not a mandate that you have to hire more if we say so, it is just in regards to us being able to have a seat at the table,” he said. 

Senate Bill 249 is also a piece of legislation at the forefront for the union according to Sahr. 

“The Michigan Only Paramedic License would go back to prior to 2004 when we went to the National Registry,” MPFFU President Sahr said in the interview, “It’ll allow us to be able to train paramedics faster, and in house here in the state of Michigan, compared to the National Registry.” 

Michigan is down between 500-700 paramedics in the state, and by moving away from the National Registry Standards and regulations, Michigan could train its own paramedics more quickly according to Sahr. 

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“Michigan has had a 60% decrease in the number of Paramedic programs,” according to MPFFU, “Due to National Registry accreditation restrictions none of these programs are based within a fire department.  This is troubling given the number of patients receiving some or all pre-hospital care from their community’s fire department.” 

Lead sponsor on SB 249, Senator Kevin Hertel (D-Saint Clair Shores) spoke with Michigan News Source about how the bill has been a priority of his since his time in the Michigan House. 

“Years ago we had an option for paramedics license training that was removed when we went to this nationally accredited program, but there are challenges with that nationally accredited program and not everybody who is training to be a paramedic wants to be nationally accredited,” Sen. Hertel said, “So for some people who go through that program, because they want that national accreditation, they want that ability to go from Michigan to other states and practice, but some people don’t so we can have another program that ‘s optional that can be run by our local departments that provides more on the job training; in some aspects which I think can be a better form of training at times.” 

Sen. Hertel also explained how changing the certification path to what Michigan previously offered would help address a national and statewide issue. 

“The entire country is seeing a shortage of firefighters, paramedics, police officers, nurses, teachers, so this is a national problem that we’re trying to figure out what we can do here in Michigan to help alleviate it,” Sen. Hertel siad in the interview, “I think this is one tool in a toolbox, there is no one thing you’re going to be able to do to solve these staffing shortages.” 

The legislation has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health Policy and awaits a hearing in the coming weeks according to Sen. Hertel. 

According to Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union statistics, Michigan has the fewest number of full-time professional fire fighters per population as compared to surrounding states.  Michigan has 5,125 full time professional fire fighters, or 50 per 100,000 people, while Indiana has 101 per 100,000 residents; Illinois has 102 per 100,000 residents; and Ohio has 111 per 100,000 residents.