Doing more with less is an expectation put on workers across nearly every industry these days, but a Winchester firefighter says when it comes to emergencies, his department has gone too far.
Back in October there was a stretch when the Winchester Fire Department responded to five fires in four days. Firefighter and paramedic Raymond Patrick thought one of those fires would be the end of 48 hours on duty, but as he prepared to go home at the end of his shift, his boss ordered him to start all over again. "If you're not rested and feel that you're up to the job, and you're in there in a structure fire fighting fire, your crew members depend on you," Patrick said, "and if you fail, then they fail."
That's why Patrick says he told his superiors he wouldn't last 72 hours straight. The 8-year veteran of the department and newly elected union president says because Winchester is understaffed, many firefighters have had to work back to back 24-hour shifts even though the standard schedule is 24-hours on, 48-hours off. "The 24-48-hour schedule was developed to give you two days away from it, so those toxins have time to clean out of your system," Patrick said.
Patrick's refusal led to a hearing before the Winchester City Commission. "What we are here about is as the mayor read in the charges, the question of whether or not Mr. Patrick violated the rules of the personnel code," Winchester City Attorney Bill Dykeman said at the hearing Tuesday night.
But Patrick says the bigger issue is the effect the department's mandatory overtime policy has on public safety when firefighters and especially paramedics are forced to work without sufficient rest. "It's not about me. It's about the department," Patrick said.
The city will decide how to discipline Patrick, but he hopes the next decisions will be about a change in policies.
That city commission hearing began at 5:30pm and was still in session late Tuesday night.
Winchester Mayor Ed Burtner tells NEWSFIRST the hearing concluded around 11:30pm with the city commission deciding to place letters of reprimand in Raymond Patrick's city employee file after finding him guilty of violating the following two rules: 1) Violation of or refusal to obey an official order, policy, procedure, or regulation; 2) Insubordination or disrespect to a supervisor or failure to cooperate with a supervisor. The mayor says Patrick will not face a loss of income or suspension of duties.
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