Cleveland admits short staffing in EMS daily

I-Team

CLEVELAND (WJW) — The FOX 8 I-Team has obtained an internal e-mail shedding new light on chronic problems with ambulance service in Cleveland including short-staffing and delays.

We’ve reviewed an e-mail from Safety Director Karrie Howard to all members of city council.

In it, Howard admits, “Regarding the staffing, we are short-staffed daily.”

That is especially notable since, recently, the mayor’s administration told council at a hearing that EMS is fully staffed “98% of the time.”

Yet, the e-mail also says, “We’ve been consistent with stating there are staffing shortages and have kept our eye on the ball.  We knew this was going to be a rough year due to COVID’s impact on hiring and not having classes last year.” 

Howard sent the e-mail after Councilman Michael Polensek wrote to him demanding an explanation following the latest I-Team investigation revealing issues with Cleveland ambulance service.

At the same time, the safety director e-mail also says, “The City is covered around the clock and all calls for service are being met.  We have an EMT class starting in July, which will help alleviate some of the pressure upon graduation.  We are also exploring other alternative solutions.”

He added, “We are weathering the storm, but I assure you the city is covered.”

Nonetheless, radio traffic showed dispatchers telling safety forces on various calls this week no ambulance was available.

Also, this week, the I-Team revealed an internal investigation into what happened with one EMS unit that seemed to be lost by dispatch for four hours during the weekend of the NFL Draft in Cleveland.

An EMS crew went to a medical emergency on West 81st. Dispatch notes show the crew was listed as assigned to that call for four hours, and yet the record also shows the patient refused transport to the hospital.

The safety director’s email also referenced that.

He wrote, “The unit that was out of service is unacceptable and was the result crossed wires between communications and the personnel manning that vehicle.  That is not the norm and is being investigated.  Too early to say if discipline will come out of it.  Commissioner Carlton and I will consider action after fact-finding.”

Friday, we also reached out to the mayor’s office after seeing the safety director’s e-mail. A spokesperson said city hall has no more comment on this, but the mayor’s office will let us know when that internal investigation is completed.

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