The History of Supervision in NYC*EMS

By EMS Deputy Chief Peter Hosey (retired) in collaboration with EMS Assistant Chief Robert P. McCarthy (retired)

While I am taking the liberty of explaining the history behind the supervisory ranks in NYC*EMS, it should be noted that this history writing would not be possible without the help of former Assistant Chief Robert P. McCarthy. I worked under the “good” Chief McCarthy during the 1980’s who is now retired and living in Florida. Much of the early days of EMS are a recollection and memories of Chief McCarthy.

Prior to NYC*EMS the ambulance service as we know it today was called the Ambulance and Transportation Service of the NYC Department of Hospitals. This unit worked out of room #627 at 125 Worth Street in Manhattan. In this room was the Chief of Transportation, two to three Ambulance Inspectors who were at the time provisional garage foreman and clerical staff. Each City hospital, much like the hospitals presently under what is now called the Health and Hospital Corporation, had a garage foreman (a civil service position) who reported to the hospital administrator. The garage foreman essentially operated all of the ambulance at that particular hospital i.e. Coney Island Hospital. The garage foreman and motor vehicle operators were on the individual payroll of each hospital. The ambulance “tech” during this time could have been a nurse’s aide from the hospital ward who most likely was given ambulance duty for the tour as a form of punishment. Some of the larger hospitals like Roosevelt Island, Jacobi and Kings County Hospitals had Senior Garage foreman assigned to them and this position was assigned a civil service/physically taxing position.

In the 1970’s, the Department of Hospitals became the Health and Hospitals Corporation and the beginning of what was soon to be NYC*EMS was developing and at the time was considered to be a separate cost center, much like one of the other 18 or so HHC hospitals throughout the 5 boroughs of New York City. NYC*EMS at the time had a EMS Director, 2 Deputy Directors, Chief of Ambulance Service, Chief of Communications, Chief of Personnel, 5 Assistant Chiefs that worked out of 125 Worth Street covering the City 24/7 and were referred to as the “Duty Chief”. Dispatching at this time to the ambulances was by the New York City Police Department. Around 1972, EMS would take over the dispatching of every ambulance from the police department and the so called duty chiefs were moved from 125 Worth Street to the EMS Communications Center at 377 Broadway in lower Manhattan. I believe at the time there were only 2 dispatching frequencies, thus Brooklyn and Queens were on the same frequency while Manhattan and the Bronx shared a frequency as well as some of the early taxi services.

As NYC*EMS was transitioning, the titles of Motor Vehicle Operator and Ambulance Technician were merged into the Civil Service title of Ambulance Corpsman. The ambulance corpsman was a dual role responsibility title. In other words, the ambulance corpsman would now have combined driving and patient care duties, requiring certification as an EMT. The original Garage Foreman title was changed to Lieutenant (Supervising Emergency Medical Service Specialist Level 1) while the Senior Garage Foreman title was changed to Captain (Supervising Emegency Medical Service Specialist Level 2). Eventually over time the Senior Garage Foreman titles were changed to the group 11 managerial title of Chief. Chief McCarthy remembers that as the foreman of KCH (Kings County Hospital) he was given a raise of $1000 which was a lot of money in 1972 and transferred to 125 Worth Street as a Duty Chief. On the midnight tour and weekends, typically there was only one Roving Inspector (Lieutenant) who reported to Roosevelt Island and covered the entire City.

In 1977, when I started the job, a new Communications Center opened in the Maspeth facility on 58th Street. This was at the time a state of the art communications center whereby each borough had a separate dispatcher and frequency. It was during this time that former NYPD bosses like Joe Hoffman, Don Rowan, Pete Murray and Bill Leask would take over NYC*EMS as a Vice President, Executive Director, Chief of Operations and Director of Labor Relations respectively. In fact, it was this NYPD mentality that brought about the span of control and fostered the increase in rank structure and supervision of EMT’s and Paramedics by Lieutenants, Captains, Deputy Chiefs and Assistant Chiefs. Finally, it may be interesting to note that the then NYC*EMS budget was only 16 million dollars and a starting Corpsman yearly salary was $9400 a year while a paramedic in 1978 made $10,000 year. I remember that in the later part of 1978 after graduating from Jacobi #3 medic program, a group of medics including myself met with Joe Hoffman about the poultry salary of paramedics vs the voluntary paramedics. Joe Hoffman with a simple swish of a pen increased the salary of paramedics to a little over $14,500 a year which was compatible with paramedics employed at voluntary hospitals.