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CRS to lay off workers

January 17, 2002

CRS to lay off workers



By DAN KULIN

dank@herald-mail.com

Impending layoffs at the ambulance company that serves about 30,000 homes in and around Hagerstown could mean longer waits for some who call 911.

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In two weeks, Community Rescue Service will lay off five or six full-time employees who staff the company's ambulances, CRS Board of Directors President Ron Horn said Wednesday. There now are about 25 full-time CRS ambulance staffers.

Horn said the layoffs will mean that CRS will have two ambulances ready to go out the door. Now, at least three ambulances usually are staffed.

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After the layoffs, there is a risk that staff will not be available for a third ambulance, he said.

With fewer ambulances available, the chances that all CRS ambulance crews will be busy at the same time increases. When that happens, ambulances from farther away, such as Halfway, Smithsburg or Clear Spring, will be called to respond to emergencies within CRS' service area.

"It's luck of the draw. It may not happen for three or four days or it may happen three or four times a day," Horn said. "People shouldn't hit the panic mode because there are other nearby (ambulance) companies."

Before Horn's announcement of the board's decision, paid CRS medic Melanie Shank said any layoffs would hurt CRS response times to emergencies.

"A call (for an ambulance) that is three to five minutes now could be increased to 10 to 15 minutes easily," Shank said.

"I certainly do not want any of my loved ones to get sick in Hagerstown," she said.

Shank was one of about 45 paid and volunteer CRS staff who were at CRS headquarters on Eastern Boulevard in Hagerstown Wednesday night to protest the expected layoffs.

"Our emphasis is on public safety. We care about our community," Shank said.

Protesters also called for CRS Executive Director J. Michael Nye's resignation, and asked that an outside company handle CRS' patient billing.

The protesters spent most of the night inside the headquarters building, but about half of them stood outside the building holding signs for about 15 minutes. Some of the signs read, "No Money, Your Life, Everyone Loses," "Cutting Operations Kills," and "Nye Is Why."

Meanwhile, Nye was meeting with the CRS board to discuss more than $200,000 in personnel cuts that he says would help the financially troubled ambulance company balance its budget.

Horn said the board ultimately approved $211,000 in cuts.

Some believe the cuts will improve CRS' chances of receiving a $50,000 donation from the Washington County Board of Commissioners.

More than 50 paid and volunteer staff at CRS signed a petition asking the board to fire Nye and give his job duties to the chief of operations.

The petition stated their opposition to Nye's plan to cut ambulance staff, Nye's opposition to hiring an outside company to handle CRS' billing, and said Nye's more than $50,000-a-year salary could be better spent elsewhere.

The petition also states that Nye's "actions, attitude, and decision-making history continue to be severely detrimental to public relations and the safety and health of our community."

"We hope our petition pressures the board to terminate Nye tonight," said paid CRS paramedic Bob Shank, who is married to Melanie Shank. "He's bad for our image. He's been nothing but abrasive with everyone."

Nye could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

Horn said Nye still has his job with CRS. Nye has said he has no plans to resign.

Shank and other protesters say perhaps CRS could bring in more money by having an outside company handle its billing.

Nye has said an outside company would only cost CRS more money and not bring in additional money.

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