A third-party consultant is advising the city against merging its fire department and paramedic service in an effort to cut costs.

A report that will be considered by the city’s executive committee during its July 3rd meeting comes out squarely against the idea of a merger of Toronto Fire Services and Toronto Emergency Medical Services as well as any cooperative model that would see paramedics and firefighters working side-by-side or sharing responsibilities.

“There is little evidence to suggest that a consolidated fire and paramedic service is financially, operationally, or organizationally advantageous in the circumstance where the two organizations are competent,” the report from Pomax Inc. states. “Significant evidence exists demonstrating that merging separate fire and emergency medical services takes significant investment and is often beset with challenges including substantial legal and labour issues.”

The idea of merging the city’s fire department and paramedic service was first floated in a comprehensive review of city services completed by KPMG two years ago.

Fire Chief Jim Sales then added fuel to the proverbial fire when he told reporters that “the status quo is not an option” shortly after taking over from former fire chief Bill Stewart last August.

The Pomax Inc. report, which was released Tuesday morning, states that “start-up costs” associated with any merger would outweigh any potential savings.

The report goes on to state that the city should instead focus its efforts on creating an emergency prevention education program run jointly by the city’s firefighters and paramedics.

“By working closely together and with other divisions and community partners, TFS and TEMS can create synergies, reduce costs, and improve operational performance,” the report states.

Report makes 20 recommendations

The report makes a total of 20 recommendations on how the city can deliver better and more efficient emergency services.

Some recommendations of note include a call for increased enforcement of fire code violations, the completion of a city-wide fire risk assessment and the addition of more than 223,451 staffed ambulance hours.

The report also says the city should go ahead with plans to close Fire Station 424 in the Runnymede Road and Annette Street area.

The station was scheduled to close in January, but city council voted in favor of a last-minute infusion of funding that allowed it to remain open temporarily.

To read the full report follow this link.

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