We just took a new look at a problem we’ve exposed for years and it led us to dig into why things haven’t changed.
The I-Team recently requested EMS records and 911 recordings of calls from medical emergencies. We heard callers losing patience.
“Somebody already called, but I don’t hear any sirens,” a woman told a dispatcher at one scene.
“Send an ambulance!” another caller in an emergency yelled.
“I’ll wait. Nothing I can do but wait.” a woman said after being told she’d have to wait.
The recordings also show dispatchers letting callers know that no ambulance is coming right away.
“Due to the current call volume, I’m unable to dispatch an ambulance,” one 911 dispatcher said.
“Keep reassuring her that the ambulance is on the way, OK?” another said to a person calling for a loved one in distress.
Meanwhile, Martha Santiago spoke out to the I-Team after she says she got hit last month by a hit and run driver. Records show she waited 18 minutes for an ambulance.
“I was confused and in pain,” she said. “Everybody around me was screaming, so at the same time I was in shock, I was scared and angry.”
Recently, we also revealed the case of a man found on the Shoreway after an apparent hit and run. City records show it took 16 minutes to get an ambulance to Kendrick Shadwick. Firefighters pronounced him dead after 15 minutes.
In September, his mother told us, “I would have expected a quicker response time. If the ambulance would have responded quicker, I feel like he would have had a fighting chance.”
The I-Team also found, in October, it took 16 minutes to get an ambulance to a man who’d been shot and wounded.
He called 911 himself, saying, “It was a shoot-out thing. I got hit by one stray bullet.”
“Is there any serious bleeding?” the dispatcher said.
“Ma’am, I got a hole going through the bicep of my arm,” he answered.
Back to our question of what’s being done about the delays. We’ve shown you before, the I-Team has sent emails to the mayor’s office countless times asking to talk to him about this. His office has never made him available.
So, we looked back at the promises of Mayor Justin Bibb.
In October, 2021, while running for office, he told the I-Team, “We’ve got to get back to investing in basic city services because it truly is a matter of life and death.”
Then, in November, 2021, just after he got elected, the mayor told the I-Team, “Listen we have to take a comprehensive look at the entire system. Everything’s on the table as we look at what’s working, what’s not working.”
Yet, just weeks ago, we tried catching up with the mayor after a public event, but he went to his office and a spokesperson told us that he wasn’t coming out to talk to us.
We’ve found, for a very long time, the biggest problem leading to Cleveland EMS delays has been short-staffing. So, ambulances get taken out of service.
Years ago, the city raised taxes, in part, to meet a target of having 25 ambulances on the street during the day and 21 at night.
EMS time records show, every day in September, Cleveland EMS failed to meet that target. The day with the most ambulances shut down happened during the Cleveland Air Show with huge crowds downtown.
You should know that many ambulance services nationwide are battling short-staffing.
Still, the I-Team keeps asking what’s being done to address it in Cleveland.
Some taxpayers wonder this too after those promises from the mayor.
“He lied, he lied to all the people saying he was going to do something about it and he never did,” Santiago said.
The city recently made a change at the top of its EMS service, but that came after the commissioner was promoted to another job in the Department of Public Safety and given a raise of nearly $6,000.
We also requested to sit down and interview the new EMS Commissioner. That request was denied.
“All interview requests are not automatically granted,” a city hall spokesperson wrote. “The Cleveland Division of Emergency Medical Service has not been exempt from the workforce shortage that has plagued the country. However, Cleveland EMS still provides excellent service to the citizens of Cleveland.”