MFD director confirms spike in sick calls; could compromise resp - FOX Carolina 21

MFD director confirms spike in sick calls; could compromise response times

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(Photo Source: WMC Action News 5) (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
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(WMC) - Memphis Fire Department Director Alvin Benson confirmed a spike in sick calls, which can cause a compromise in response times.

At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, he said 40 firefighters called out on Tuesday alone. The daily average is 11.

He said there are 65 firefighters out, which is the highest the number of sick calls have been in a long time. He said some people are out on longtime sick leave.

While addressing sick leave concerns referred as the "Red Rash," he did not call the recent actions a trend or pattern. He also did not call it a movement.

The so-called "Red Rash" is MFD's demonstration equivalent of Memphis Police Department's "Blue Flu," which has 557 officer out after calling in sick. The sick calls for MPD started June 30.

"There's a lot of anger. There's a lot of confusion. The emotions are rampant," said Benson. "This was a benefit that firefighters, police, and city workers had and now the picture doesn't look the same as it did a month ago."

He said he wishes there was another way for leaders to make decisions regarding cuts to city employee's health care, which is what sparked the "Red Rash" and "Blue Flu."

MFD officials are going house to house to determine if firefighters who called in sick, are actually sick.

Benson said the department is doing everything they can to keep the city safe. If the sick calls grow, he will first spread resources across the city and pull trucks from use.

If he has to pull more than four trucks from use, Benson will call mutual aid agreements with neighboring fire departments for help.

Benson pulled four Wednesday before the news conference.

He has met with city leaders on these concerns.

Copyright 2014 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.

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