Firefighters, Selectman Still at Odds Over Physicals



WINTER HARBOR — The tug of war over whether volunteer firefighters should have the option of taxpayer-paid, annual physical examinations will go to voters at Town Meeting June 15.

 

Following a contentious discussion May 9, selectmen included $21,255 in the proposed 2011-2012 budget to pay for physicals for those firefighters who want them.

There are 13 members in the all-volunteer Winter Harbor Fire Department.

The issue arose when Dr. Ben Newman, a selectman and a local family practitioner, was asked to examine two firefighters and determine whether they were fit for rigorous activity.

He said he couldn’t sign any form without further examination and then began lobbying to include physical exams for firefighters in the budget.

Newman said the town owes its dedicated firefighters nothing less.

Fire Chief Jeff Alley Jr. said at the selectmen’s meeting May 9 that the town Fire Department has always been in full compliance with what the state mandates.

The state Department of Labor requires “interior” firefighters, those who enter burning buildings wearing air packs, fill out a medical questionnaire.

The questionnaire is then reviewed by a physician, who determines if a physical exam and diagnostic tests are required.

Newman, who formerly was director of emergency medical services in Seminole County, Fla., and was physician for two fire departments, said the firefighters should follow the higher National Fire Protection Agency Standard which recommends that all firefighters have a thorough annual physical exam.

“It’s not about us,” Newman said. “It’s about our colleagues who will have to take care of us if we go down.”

For more of the latest news, pick up a copy of The Ellsworth American.

 

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