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Seven Disciplined Over D.C. Ambulance Delay

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WASHINGTON (WJLA) - Seven District employees have been referred for "appropriate personnel action" and multiple corrective measures has been put into place after an MPD officer had to wait nearly 20 minutes for an ambulance after being hit by a car, a city report says.

Report: FEMS Transport Incident On March 5, 2013

STATter911: ‘Confidential’ letter on staffing from Chief Rubin to Chief Ellerbe. Report says DC having trouble finding all its ambulances. EMS union head speaks. Details on another inspector general report of department.

On March 5, a D.C. motorcycle officer waited nearly 20 minutes for an ambulance after he was struck in a hit-and-run near the intersection of 46th and A streets SE. Officials have since focused on why and how one of their own was left helpless.

According to the report, three D.C. ambulances were improperly out of service on the night of the crash, during which a mutual aide Prince George's County unit was the first to arrive on scene.

The report says that all three units, which were each within four miles of the crash scene, failed to "properly follow protocol" during the event in question. In one case, an ambulance identified itself as available but didn't monitor their status, therefore remaining out of service.

In the other two cases, the units were granted out-of-service status, but they did not monitor a required emergency channel, which is required by protocol.

The report details the following timeline of what happened on the night of the crash:
6:32 p.m.     Officer was struck in a hit-and-run near 46th and A streets SE
6:36 p.m.     Paramedic Engine Company 27 dispatched to the scene; data indicates no FEMS transport units available to respond
6:42 p.m.     Mutual aide Prince George's County ambulance dispatched; Paramedic Engine Company 27 arrives on scene
6:48 p.m.     Prince George's County ambulance arrives on scene
6:51 p.m.     EMS-2 supervisor arrives on scene
7:19 p.m.     Prince George's County ambulance, injured officer arrives at Washington Hospital Center

In the meantime, the report says that the emergency liaison officer on duty at the time was not aware that the police officer had been injured or was being taken to Washington Hospital Center by a mutual aide ambulance.

D.C. ambulance union president Kenneth Lyons says, though, that the crews of two of the ambulances in question that he represents were monitoring the dispatch channel when the police officer was struck. The two units were in a delay status, but could have been called.

"Units don't self dispatch just because you hear a call, especially at a busy time of day," Lyons says. "We're not allowed to do that."

In addition to the employees who were referred, the report details several corrective actions the department has taken to make sure incidents like this don't happen again. They include:

- a daily review of response times and units out of service
- a minimum of four ambulances at the ready to replace ones that go out-of-service
- system alerts when the numbers of available units drops below five
- the creation of a unit availability dashboard
- the establishment of an EMS response task force

Meanwhile, fire union president Ed Smith blamed a computer glitch for the fact the third ambulance crew he represents was not listed among available units.

"They realized there was a problem, went to jump in an ambulance and go on a run, and it wouldn't start," Smith says. "So now we're back to mechanical issues again."

The fire union blames Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe for poor equipment and staffing and are holding a no-confidence vote Monday.

When asked about Ellerbe, Mayor Vincent Gray said that he was "delighted" to work with him.

The report says say that of the 39 ambulances scheduled as on duty that night, nine were listed as out of service. Of those nine, six were valid mechanical issues, but three were improperly taken out of service.

One crew didn't log back into the system properly and were off the dispatcher's radar. But the other two were considered to be in "delayed relief mode" and had been told to "monitor the radio" should an important call be dispatched.



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