Cleveland mayoral candidates share thoughts on city’s long EMS times


CLEVELAND (WJW) – The FOX 8 I-Team keeps finding more ambulance delays, so we took questions to the two candidates to be the next mayor of Cleveland.

We asked what they would do about the problem.

In recent weeks, we’ve uncovered extreme delays with Cleveland EMS responding in medical emergencies, and some patients have died.

We found both candidates promising to fix this. Both say they’ve seen what the I-Team has reported and doing something about EMS delays will be a priority.

“On a personal level, I understand the pain and, really, the trauma that families are going through right now due to the lack of quality response times,” Justin Bibb said.

“The first step has to be the safety and the health of our residents,” Kevin Kelley said. 

Last week, we reported that Ken Sellers waited 17 minutes for an ambulance and he died.

In August, Patrick Colvin waited 14 minutes. He died at the hospital.

Justin Bibb told us, back in 2016, his cousin was murdered and there was a delay in getting an ambulance to him.

In fact, the I-Team investigated the case at the time and we found even the killer asking dispatch why first responders were not there.

A recording shows he asked dispatch, “Why is it taking so long?”

A dispatcher answered, “I don’t know where they’re coming from. Couldn’t tell you where they’re coming from.”

We discovered it took police nearly 12 minutes to get there and paramedics 18 minutes.

“This is why I am running for mayor. We got to get back to the basics in this city, make sure we are investing in high quality basic city services because it is truly a matter of life and death. We got to get it fixed,” Bibb said.

The I-Team has shown you time and time again that EMS does not have enough paramedics. Both candidates agree this is a problem. They say, if elected, they will work on ways to hire more paramedics and increase pay.

Kevin Kelley says he also wants to get firefighters more involved in taking patients to the hospital when there is no ambulance free.

“If you’ve got a loved one who’s facing tragedy, you don’t care who takes them there. You just want them to get to the hospital,” Kelley said.

In fact, the I-Team checked. Cleveland Fire does have two rescue squads that can be used to transport patients.

One is based at a station on West 117th, while the other is at East 66 and Chester. However, multiple sources tell us the fire department squads have not been used to take patients to the hospital for years.

There’s no quick fixes, but both candidates promise they won’t waste time looking for ways to save time getting medical help to you.

“Lives on the line, people need city services. We need to go them take care of immediately,” Kelley said.

“We must do a better job of prioritizing, investing in EMS,” Bibbs said.

Kelley has served for years as president of city council. We asked why council hasn’t done more about this.

He argued that council has given the mayor’s office money for staffing, but city safety officials haven’t done enough to keep up.

Meanwhile, the suspect in the case involving Bibb’s  cousin is now serving 20 years in prison.

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