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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

How Pittsburgh's Freedom House Pioneered Paramedic Treatment

In the 1960s, Pittsburgh, like most cities, was segregated by race. But people of all colors suffered from lack of ambulance care. Police were the ones who responded to medical emergency calls.

"Back in those days, you had to hope and pray you had nothing serious," recalls filmmaker and Hollywood paramedic Gene Starzenski, who grew up in Pittsburgh. "Because basically, the only thing they did was pick you up and threw you in the back like a sack of potatoes, and they took off for the hospital. They didn't even sit in the back with you."

Ambulances existed, but they were privatized and didn't offer emergency care or go everywhere.

That changed with the start of the Freedom House Ambulance Service, the city's first mobile emergency medicine program. Starzenski tells the story in his documentaryFreedom House Street Saviors.



Anonymous said...

This wasn't the pioneer of paramedic treatment. You obviously haven't heard of Seattle's Medic One program. They were attempting this quite a few years before. The Baltimore City Fire Department also was, they assisted in developing the first CPR techniques by having firemen volunteer to be placed in a medicinally driven non-breathing state and having resuscitatory efforts performed upon them, and miraculously none of them died! While good for Pittsburgh, sorry about their luck, they weren't the "first" or the "model".

Anonymous said...

Joe, Thanks for posting this. Brought back memories.

The Hill District was the definition of a bad neighborhood and was hemmed in by hilly geography and better off areas.

People were economically segregated in those days, rather than by law. In reality, just about as effective.

My dad helped with drawing up some of the legal paperwork that got Freedom House up and running. Pro bono. Never heard about it until much later; just that kind of guy.

One factoid; article says the mayor died. Author was referring to David 'Davey' Lawrence who was the ex-mayor responsible for revitalizing the town in the 50s. He was also former Penna governor when he was stricken. Major national political player.

Again, thanks for the look back.