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Budget Cuts Hit Detroit EMS

DETROIT - Deep cuts are in the works for emergency services in the city of Detroit.

Emergency workers told Local 4 that they’re already understaffed, but come July 1, 33 more EMS positions will be eliminated.
The cause of the layoffs comes from a planned $1.8 million cut to the city budget.

Detroit’s budget battle is forcing dozens of EMS workers out of a job and putting public safety at risk.

The situation is so dire, workers say if residents dial 911 for a medical emergency in the city of Detroit, it could be hours before help arrives.

Wisam Zeineh is the president of Detroit’s Emergency Medical Services Union.

“The infrastructure is broken and it has been for years,” Zeineh said.

Zeineh said that in less than a month, dozens of emergency response positions will be wiped out.

A fleet of 24 medic units will be reduced to just 15.

Just weeks ago on Detroit’s Belle Isle, it took EMS so long to respond to a shooting victim; police had to take the man to the hospital themselves.

“Our response time is atrocious. At any given point, day or night, consecutively for the last few months, there were no units available. That means if you call 911, it may be an hour, it may be two,” Zeineh said.

Annie O’Neal, a Detroit resident, found herself in the same position not long ago.

“People just say they're not coming, so you better find something else,” O’Neal said.

Detroit Fire Commissioner James Mack said he has done what he can.

“I've done all I could do as a commissioner, and to stave off any additional cuts and they opted to deal those cuts,” Mack said.

The city council and the mayor have been disagreeing over the city budget since Mayor Dave Bing vetoed the city council’s city budget, which calls for $31.5 million in cuts.

Bing said that the city council’s budget would lead to police, fire and EMS layoffs, but the council disagrees.

Unless some sort of compromise between the city council and the mayor is reached, lives that depend on a 911 response are on the line more than ever.

“What if someone was having a heart attack or a major stroke, and they couldn’t get anybody -- they would die,” O’Neal said.

For a city the size of Detroit, over 400 EMS personnel should be on the job.

But with the latest round of cuts, that figure will be reduced to about 180.

Local 4 is told the mayor’s budget didn’t call for any cuts to EMS before it was vetoed.

The Detroit EMS union is weighing their legal options.
 



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