CLEVELAND (WJW) – The FOX 8 I-Team has now found how often many of you are waiting for an ambulance in Cleveland even during serious emergencies. In fact, we also uncovered a long delay Tuesday evening in getting paramedics to a shooting at a recreation center that turned deadly.
The I-Team filed a records request this summer asking how often dispatchers have to wait at least twenty minutes before they can even send an ambulance to a call. How often are there long delays before even sending an ambulance due to short staffing and no units available? We finally received the response this week, nearly four months after requesting the information.
The records show for a two-month period, dispatchers had to wait 20 minutes or more before an ambulance was even dispatched to about 500 calls. Most of those calls were considered low-priority calls, however, nine of the calls were labeled Delta, which are calls for medical emergencies needing advanced medical care. Records also show of those “Delta” cases, the call was not dispatched for more than an hour. Others held from 20 minutes to more than 45.
We took our findings to Cleveland City Council Public Safety Chairman Mike Polensek. He’s demanding Mayor Justin Bibb explain where the plan is for fixing the EMS issues.
“We’re looking again to the administration to again really put forth a plan of action to fill the vacancies in EMS,” Polensek said. “This concerns me greatly as a public official and a resident of Cleveland.”
The I-Team has reached out dozens of times to City Hall. We’ve asked to speak to the mayor or his top administrators on camera about the EMS issues, but our requests have been declined.
Multiple sources and an EMS record obtained by the I-Team show it took 17 minutes for an ambulance to arrive on the scene Tuesday after a teen was shot at the Earle B. Turner Recreation Center. The teen died.
Cleveland EMS has struggled for a very long time with short staffing. Mark Barrett, the president of the EMS union, C.A.R.E. 1975, sent the following statement to the I-Team.
“Cleveland EMS has a mismatch between our available resources and our call volume. While we believe everyone deserves access to healthcare, our current trajectory is unsustainable. As reflected, higher acuity calls are being delayed while tending to lower acuity calls. We need to increase our resources, decrease our call volume, or ideally do both. I believe our new Commissioner is on the right track and we look forward to positive change in the near future. “
The union has pushed for higher wages for Cleveland EMS employees to help boost staffing. But we’ve learned talks with the City on a new contract have not led to an agreement. In fact, EMS sources have said the contract talks are now before an arbitrator. The city also has not commented on that.