Fire commissioner Adam Thiel (center) and Chestnut Hill Hospital CEO Dr. John Cacciamani (far left) congratulate 13 EMTs who completed 18 months of training to become certified paramedics. (Photo by Pete Mazzaccaro)

By Pete Mazzaccaro

Chestnut Hill Hospital recognized last week the graduation of 13 members of Philadelphia’s Emergency Medic Services last week from an 18-month training program at the hospital. The program certifies the emergency medical technicians as paramedics.

That recognition was made at a press conference that included the graduates, hospital staff and city officials.

Dr. John Cacciamani, CEO of Chestnut Hill Hospital, said the program came from conversations with the Philadelphia Fire Department, which oversees EMTs in the city, and its becoming a part of Tower Health, the Reading-based health system that purchased the hospital about three years ago.

“We’ve always had a good relationship with Philly Fire and Philly EMS and it bubbled up along the way about their need and their desire to improve care of the community by bringing more paramedics inside of each of the trucks that permeate throughout all of Philadelphia,” Cacciamani said. “And at that time we were becoming part of Tower [Health], and what became pretty clear is that Tower brought to us the capacity to educate in a way that we never had seen before.”

Cacciamani said the hospital hired instructors to carry out the educational program and that the hospital planned to take on a new class of paramedic recruits in the fall. He said the recruits helped him gain perspectives on the work they do as EMTs out in the community.

 I’ve met with them numerous times. I’ve had meals with them,” he said. “I can’t tell you how much they brought to me, explaining what was going on out in the community, in the conflicts and the difficulties of how hard it is to provide care on a daily basis and how we need to work together as a team to make that happen.”

Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said the program was an important part of making sure that dedicated emergency personnel, in a city that he said is the busiest in the country, could take advantage of training to advance their careers.

“What I heard from our fire service EMTs who were all relatively new at the time was… ‘How do I advance and this organization? Because I want to serve the residents, businesses and visitors of the city of Philadelphia, but I need to have an opportunity to upgrade. And to serve at a different level,’” Thiel said.

Thiel congratulated the new paramedics for having completed their training while at the same time working as EMTs, a tough proposition for so busy a position. He said, too, that he was looking forward to a continued partnership with Chestnut Hill Hospital, for a program that would last six months in the future instead of 18.

“We are looking forward to continuing this partnership,” Thiel said. “Tower and Chestnut Hill have been very generous with us and very flexible. As the world has changed, so have our requirements. And we are very grateful that we will soon be selecting another cohort of fire service EMTs to come here and go through a six-month program … and that will also allow us to provide a higher level of service and advanced life support care in every corner of our city. And that is absolutely critical.”