What is the overall budget for the Comprehensive Physicals for all Fire Department uniformed employees? How are these physicals sourced?

FY 2017 Budget Question: What is the overall budget for the Comprehensive Physicals for all Fire Department uniformed employees? How are these physicals sourced?

Page updated on Jun 16, 2017 at 11:04 AM

The FY 2016 budget for all Fire Department physicals is currently $195,800. However, actual expenditures for physicals in FY 2015 were approximately $207,000 and included $60,000 for 58 firefighter candidate physicals that the Department tested before hiring (of which not all were subsequently hired). The City Manager’s proposed increase of $70,000 will result in an overall physical budget of $265,800 and will ensure all uniformed employees of the Department can receive a comprehensive physical, as defined by National Fire Protection Agency’s (NFPA) established standard 1582.

NFPA 1582 outlines the medical physical conditions required for both potential firefighter candidates and incumbent firefighters. It was developed by medical professionals and firefighters working together to determine a medical standard for physicals that can best assess a firefighter’s ability to perform his or her job due to the physical demands. Not all firefighters in the Alexandria Fire Department receive physicals that adhere to the NFPA 1582 standard. Employees under the age of 39 years old alternate between receiving a “basic” physical and comprehensive NFPA 1582 physical every other year. The “basic” physical is approximately 15-30 minutes and does not involve several tests required by the NFPA standard. AFD has been operating under the current arrangement since at least 2007 (as far back as records can be found). The “basic” physical costs $110 per visit while the comprehensive physical costs $1,100. Those over the age of 39 and those who are assigned to the Hazmat team (regardless of age) receive a comprehensive NFPA 1582 physical every year.

Currently, the Alexandria Fire Department uses INOVA Alexandria for these services. INOVA has proven to be the most convenient provider due to location and ability to perform the NFPA physical. On their scheduled work day, Firefighters go to their scheduled physicals at INOVA Alexandria, a location that is close and within the City. While the individual is at his or her physical, the Department pays overtime for another person to fill in while that person is at INOVA. Thus, the faster someone can return from his or her physical, the less in overtime that is paid.

The Fire Department has been actively seeking alternative ways to provide this service in a more cost-effective and timely fashion, however it is difficult to find a proposal that meets both variables while still providing a quality service. Two recent proposals that were examined include:

  • In the summer of 2015, the Fire Department worked with INOVA on a proposal whereby an occupational health clinic could be established within Alexandria for not only the Fire Department, but all Departments and include some wellness visits by employees. However, the startup costs for such a clinic were significant (requiring a facility that would have to be made available), and the ongoing costs (over $500,000) required more money than all Departments are currently spending with INOVA. Even in the preliminary stages, the proposal did not make fiscal sense to the Fire Department. Further review of this option led by the Human Resources Department will occur in the coming year to determine health benefits and cost savings that might occur.

  • Previously, the Fire Department has looked at other vendors providing the same service to other Departments. These options were not selected due to the time it would take to send individuals to Fairfax for their annual physical. These options would take more time, and would be more costly in returning employees to their unit on shift. In the end, the benefits of clinics at other locations did not outweigh the costs.  

Despite this, the Fire Department continues to research options for this service, looking for a method that is timely and cost effective for Department employees.