PHILADELPHIA -- Responding to widespread criticism of slow response times by city ambulances, Mayor Nutter acted yesterday to shore up the city's emergency medical services.
With a quick infusion of money for overtime and hiring, Nutter announced that the Fire Department put two new ambulances into round-the-clock service yesterday morning, and will add more units over the next 12 days.
The moves come after several Daily News stories of slow EMS responses, a highly critical report by City Controller Alan Butkovitz and the threat of public hearings in City Council.
"We take your concerns very seriously," Nutter said, referring to citizens worried about the 911 system. "The government is responding."
Councilwoman Joan Krajewski joined Nutter at yesterday's news conference, saying she was pleased with his actions and would not hold planned hearings on the city's EMS system.
Butkovitz said he was "very, very impressed and heartened" by Nutter's moves. Brian McBride, president of the firefighters union, joined in praising Nutter's action.
"It's a good, positive first step," McBride said. "It's about 25 percent of what we need."
Union recording secretary David Kearney said that besides adding ambulances and personnel, the city needs to better prioritize its call-screening and dispatching procedures.
Among the steps planned to improve EMS performance:
The changes announced yesterday are expected to cost about $3.8 million per year.
No changes are planned in the city's policy of not using private and nonprofit ambulances for 911 calls. Officials of several private services have offered to augment the city's emergency services.Ayers said the city plans to improve communications with non-municipal ambulances for disaster-response planning, and hasn't ruled out a future role in answering 911 calls.