The line of emergency vehicles stretched down Redwood Street, red lights flashing, black crepe draping radiator grills.
They had come to the University of Maryland at Baltimore yesterday to protest a nearly $1 million cut in the state's Emergency Medical Services system, funded through the university.
The EMS field services train local emergency crews and provide a statewide medical communications network. They are being cut back as part of a $5.8 million slash in the over-all UMAB budget.
"In the long run, what it means is total degradation of the services that we've got now," said Christopher N. Amos, who works with the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue )) Association.
Inside a nearby auditorium, the atmosphere was just as grim as )) UMAB President Erroll L. Reese announced plans for a three-day, unpaid "furlough" for some 2,200 employees.
And he warned employees to brace for another round of cuts, including furloughs and layoffs, next year.
"Possibly, people will lose their jobs," he told an emotional meeting of faculty and staff members. "I think that you should make some plans."
Since last year, UMAB has undergone a 17 percent cut in state funds, including $10 million from its fiscal 1991 budget, that has resulted in 35 layoffs.
Early last month, UMAB was forced to trim its budget by $3.6 million, which was done in a way that required no layoffs.
But last week, the university got word that it would have to cut another $2.2 million as part of a $450 million statewide budget reduction.
The latest round forced the university to chop nearly $1 million from the EMS program, a move that could result in up to 44 layoffs.
Reese also ordered the three-day, unpaid furloughs for virtually allworkers. The furloughs, which will save $1.2 million, are
expected to take place over a period of three months.
Reese warned that UMAB may have to endure still more cuts, perhaps as early as December, and has instructed all deans to begin identifying targets.
That could mean another round of furloughs in February through May of next year, he said, and the possibility of layoffs.
Reese was questioned sharply by those who accused him of cutting too much from the high-profile EMS program.
EMS officials have circulated claims that next year's budget will be reduced by 63 percent, which they say would gut the program.
Reese defended the decision to cut EMS, saying the program is the only non-revenue producing program in the university system.
He also stressed that the EMS cuts will affect training and education, and should have no direct impact on emergency medical care.
Ameen I. Ramzy, the state EMS director, warned that deep cuts would have a drastic effect on the training of local emergency medical crews and other services.
Already, state emergency officials are beginning to document the effect of last week's budget cuts on the Med-Evac system.
Those cuts resulted in the closing of Med-Evac helicopter centers in Montgomery County and in Centreville on the Eastern Shore, elimination of overtime and elimination of helicopter service between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m..
Rochelle Cohen, a spokeswoman for the Shock-Trauma Unit in Baltimore, said that over the past weekend alone, 22 requests for Med-Evac service could not be met because of the state cutbacks. They included at least two cases in Anne Arundel County, two in Montgomery County and three in Prince George's County, she said.
Three cases were attributed to the elimination of early-morning service, Cohen said. But most of the unserved cases could be attributed to the shutdown of the two centers and elimination of overtime, she said.
Norris West and the Associated Press contributed to this story.