CLEVELAND (WJW) – The FOX 8 I-Team has found a pattern of very long delays getting a Cleveland ambulance to critical emergencies, with some units not sent for more than an hour.
Records show, in the first five weeks of the year, dozens of top-priority medical calls in Cleveland were held by dispatch for 20 minutes to more than an hour.
In other words, an ambulance was not even sent until after 20 minutes to an hour.
So, the cases are not just happening here and there. Instead, sometimes daily.
We took a closer look at some calls. There was no ambulance sent to a stroke until after 24 minutes.
A call for chest pain was held for 35 minutes. A call for trouble breathing was held for 45 minutes. An overdose, more than half an hour.
No ambulance was sent to a high-priority call for a serious fall for an hour and three minutes.
A high-priority call for an unconscious or fainting person didn’t get dispatched for an hour and seven minutes.
Cleveland EMS has struggled for years with short staffing and delays. Now, the new records show how often they happen with even the most urgent medical calls.
Recently, families have spoken out to the I-Team. One man told us what it was like waiting for an ambulance for his wife as she had a severe allergic reaction.
“It wasn’t good. She started getting worse and worse,” he said.
A woman told us about the wait her brother had for help as he struggled suffering from a heart emergency.
“I was really angry with them. The time they took, he could’ve died,” she said.
EMS has opened internal investigations into a couple of delays, but what about all of the others?
We want to talk to Mayor Justin Bibb, but in the entire time since he took office, the mayor has never sat down with the I-Team to talk about ambulance service.
Recently, we questioned Safety Director Karrie Howard walking through city hall. The city has said repeatedly that EMS moves ambulances around so that no area is let uncovered.
“EMS engages in dynamic deployment, and between EMS and fire, our first responders will make sure they’re covered,” Howard said.
But, the I-Team has shown you that EMS sends ambulances all the way across town to get to some priority medical emergencies. That just happened when it took more than half an hour to get help to a teen at a rec center.
City Council Public Safety Chairman Michael Polensek called out the mayor’s office.
“The administration, we’re looking to the administration to figure out what to do to ‘right’ by EMS because, right now, it’s not working,” he said.
Cleveland recently had some new recruits join the EMS force, but they involved only a handful trained in handling advanced life support calls.
The new records show a pattern of extreme delays with no sign of what’s being done to fix it.