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Phil. Ambulance Times Improve, But Not by Much

PHILADELPHIA — Response times by Philadelphia Fire Department ambulances have improved some since Mayor Nutter beefed up the EMS in February, but the city still falls short of national standards for emergency response.

“We took a full minute off our response time, and that’s a big impact,” Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said yesterday. “But we have more work to do. We haven’t met our goals.”

Ayers released an analysis of city ambulance runs in March, which showed some improvement when compared with March 2007.

The study showed that last year, the city was falling well short of the National Fire Protection Association standard of getting to an emergency within eight minutes, 59 seconds, 90 percent of the time.

City ambulances met that goal about 64 percent of the time in March 2007. But last month, the review showed, ambulances met that goal 74 percent of the time.

The report showed that the department’s mean response time in March was 8:42, more than a minute better than the previous March. However, the report also showed that it took 18 minutes or longer for help to arrive in 815 cases in March. That represents about 6 percent of the medic runs that month.

David Kearney, recording secretary of the firefighters union and a veteran paramedic, said that the analysis documents a modest improvement with crude measurements.

“I think this shows that if you increase the resources in the system, you can improve response time,” he said. “However, the system still has significant flaws and is in need of a radical redesign.”

Kearney said that the city’s emergency medical system is still understaffed and does a much poorer job of matching needs with resources compared with that of many other cities.

The EMS system increased its ambulance fleet from 45 to 50 after improvements Nutter ordered in January.