Any hope for ending Cleveland EMS delays? I-Team goes to the top

I-Team

CLEVELAND (WJW) – The FOX 8 I-Team just went one-on-one with the head of Cleveland EMS about what’s being done to end ambulance delays.

For months, we’ve exposed problems leading to those delays. People often can’t afford to wait. Still, no one from EMS or city hall would agree to answer questions about it.

Tuesday morning, we tracked down EMS Commissioner Nicole Carlton at a groundbreaking. We asked what’s being done right now to make a difference with the delays.

“We’re heavily recruiting,” Carlton said.

She said a new class of about three dozen paramedics will graduate within weeks. However, even after that, Cleveland EMS will still be dozens short.

Carlton did not outline any quick fix.

The I-Team has exposed ambulances not handling calls as they’re shut down due to chronic short-staffing of paramedics.

Sometimes, that leads to delays getting paramedics to life-and-death emergencies.

In fact, Cleveland EMS has been so short, multiple sources tell us, during the day on Monday, more than a third of the ambulances expected to be handling calls were out of service.

So, we also asked about people calling 911 and getting forced to wait for an ambulance.

“You know, we call prioritize. We’ve been doing that for several decades, so, we call prioritize. So our highest priority calls get the first response,” Carlton said.

We answered by pointing out, despite that, we still see people waiting significant times for an ambulance.

“There may be times when people wait,” Carlton said.

All of this comes even as COVID-19 cases keep piling up and putting more of a strain on paramedics.

We also wondered how the city let its EMS shortage get to this point. The Commissioner blames COVID.

“So, our recruitment numbers were down. Very few people wanted to come work on the front lines during a pandemic,” she said.

To be clear, the I-Team started spotlighting these problems long before COVID-19.

But, whatever the reason behind it all, be prepared to wait for change. Maybe waiting when you call 911, too.

While Cleveland EMS says it is doing all it can to hire more people, some people currently on staff will likely leave.

Catching up on the short-staffing is, by no means, a sure thing.

A new Mayor will take over in Cleveland next month. Weeks ago, we reached out to him.

At the time, Justin Bibb promised to take a hard look at EMS and what can be done to fix the problems.

For this story, a spokesperson told us by email that the new mayor will have more to say about EMS once he’s sworn in and he’s taken office.

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