The District’s fire chief has proposed a plan to redeploy the department’s emergency medical service workers into a configuration that would leave ambulances staffed with no paramedics during the overnight hours.
Chief Kenneth Ellerbe is expected to announce today the details of a plan to transfer 14 ambulances staffed with paramedics, who are trained to perform advanced procedures for more serious medical calls, from the hours between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. to the busier time between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.
The department would still deploy ambulances staffed by lesser trained emergency medical technicians during the overnight hours and would rely for assistance on firefighter-paramedics and supervisors who are trained as paramedics. The department has 21 paramedic engine companies, or fire engines staffed with a firefighter trained as a paramedic, and seven paramedic supervisors working in the overnight hours, Chief Ellerbe told WTTG-TV (Channel 5).
“This gives us an opportunity now to look at a decades-old system and respond more readily to our community,” he said of the new plan, which is drawn from a year’s worth of data on the department’s call volume and service delivery.
The chief said the plan is not completed and that he will to talk with the community, as well as the unions that represent firefighters and civilian medical workers and the D.C. Council, which must approve the reconfiguration.
The D.C. Firefighters Union has already expressed skepticism at the plan, saying that the department has been unable to regularly keep 14 ambulances staffed with paramedics at a time. The increase in the number of ambulances running calls during the day will increase the the drain on staffing, said union president Ed Smith.
More details are expected at an afternoon news conference after the chief briefs the unions on his plan.