- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 21, 2001

The District should work to strengthen its own emergency medical services and meanwhile provide its needy wards with access to services from across the border with Prince Georges County, city residents and D.C. Council members said yesterday.
This reaction comes in response to a report in TheWashington Times that Fire Chief Ronnie Few has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Bethesda-Chevy Chase rescue squad that would give Ward 3 residents access to extra medical services from Montgomery County.
Chief Few signed the agreement on May 1 after saying in March that he intended to end the decades-long compact. The deal would improve the level of emergency medical care for residents in Northwest neighborhoods like Chevy Chase, Tenleytown, North Cleveland Park and Foxhall Crescent, who can circumvent the Districts 911 center and call the volunteer squad directly for ambulance service.
Residents in other wards, particularly those who relied on D.C. General Hospital, said they, too, were worried about fast access to emergency medical services, especially since the hospitals closure.
Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (ANC) Norma Broadnax, from Ward 5, said the arrangement was typical of the imbalance one sees between services for the citys affluent areas and its needy ones. She pointed out, however, that the service for Ward 3 residents, who will mainly benefit from this arrangement, was not new.
"Unfortunately that one section has always had access available to them while other areas dont," she said.
"Many services are delivered to Ward 3 because of their financial status," said council member Sandy Allen, Ward 8. "I would love to see it equal for the rest of the city," she said.
Those who will benefit from the agreement defended it as a historic one.
Council member Kathleen Patterson, Ward 3, said the need in her area was based in "long-standing practice." The community on both sides of the border was "used to having these services. It is a historical situation," she said. An aide to Mrs. Patterson said the city had abolished Ward 3s only rescue squad in 1995, saving the city $1.1 million.
But council members representing other areas in the city said they needed additional services, as well.
Adrian Fenty, council member for Ward 4, said he welcomed the agreement because some of his residents would benefit after the anticipated redistricting. "This is the type of thing residents have wanted — border initiatives that share resources," he said.
However, he added that he would work to get a similar arrangement with Prince Georges County for the rest of his ward. "We need to model this," he said.
Council member Vincent Orange, Ward 5, refused to comment on the issue. Chief Few did not return calls yesterday.
Mrs. Allen, who said she was not familiar with the terms of the agreement, added that her ward needed more medical services, especially transportation services.
But she said the District should work to build its own capacity for medical services. Until then, however, "it would be good to have a relationship with a backup service" in Prince Georges County.
Ward 5 ANC Sarah Boyd said people in her area had "nowhere to go" after the closure of D.C. General Hospital.
"I am so afraid I will wake up one day and have a stroke or a heart attack," she said. "I would die."

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