I-Team: Delay getting ambulance for deadly hit & run crash

CLEVELAND-The FOX 8 I-TEAM has found a delay in reaching a Cleveland ambulance dispatcher after a hit and run crash Saturday that turned out to be deadly. And this marks just the latest snag in Cleveland’s 9-1-1 system getting calls to EMS.

After the crash on 480, a 9-1-1 dispatcher tried getting through to Cleveland EMS, but records show “voice mail to EMS”, “calling again”, “unable to notify EMS," “still ringing,” and finally troopers were “transferred after over 5 minutes.”

We recently saw the problem with a medical emergency at FOX 8. A caller found herself on hold more than 4 minutes. No one asked to find out specifics about the emergency.

In Cleveland, the dispatchers sit together in one room, so how is it that sometimes it takes several minutes to make contact with each other? The I-TEAM has learned union leaders have been meeting with city officials trying to figure out a better way to get help to you more quickly.

We went to Cleveland City Hall. An Assistant Safety Director says staffing’s a problem. The city has scrambled to fill openings for 6 EMS dispatchers. Tim Hennessy adds, the city plans to have fire dispatchers handle more calls. And within a year, new computer software could streamline the entire process. Hennessy said, “Our goal is to make it a one-step emergency. You call, we’ll create the incident, and the computer will route it to the correct dispatcher.”

The city says it plans to meet with the fire dispatchers Tuesday. But hiring and training EMS dispatchers to fill the openings could still take several weeks. And again, the new computer system could be close to a year away from making a difference.

The Cleveland Police Union President has already raised concerns about police dispatchers handling medical calls. And the EMS Union says it has complained about short staffing for a long time. The union says EMS dispatchers frequently get forced to work overtime just to provide minimum staffing.