DC Council Committee Rejects Medic Redeployment

5:20 PM, Jun 28, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- A stinging rebuke, for DC's embattled fire chief and allegations that none of us are safe because the fire service is so badly managed.

For months now, DC Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe has been pushing a dramatic redeployment of paramedics off the night shift and on to the day shift. A DC council committee is now telling him to forget it, voting 3-0 with one abstention to disapprove his plan.

Committee chair Tommy Wells points to a series of scary failures: an injured cop left to wait while medic units from Maryland had to scramble to pick him up; a carjacking suspect who died after the ambulance he was in stopped running.

"This is not just isolated incidents," says Wells. "This is a pattern of ambulances not being able to transport people in need."

The fire chief's plan would have left the city without any advanced life support units on the street overnight.

In a 29 page report, the committee chair says the department has lost track of its own fleet, has failed to keep enough medics on staff, and cannot even explain its own redeployment plan.

"We have apparatus challenges on a daily basis," says firefighter union chief Ed Smith. "We are short-staffed firefighter paramedics. They're holding, forcefully holding people over their shift. So you do 24 hours, and you're forced to do another 12 hours, against their will."

Fire Chief Ellerbe was no where to be seen at the committee vote and his spokesman has failed to return phone calls.

Committee chair Wells says the problem is management. "This is not a problem with funding. This council has fully funded the emergency response of the city. This is about execution."

Despite the problems, the Mayor's office insists there will be enough medics on hand to handle any emergency on the 4th of July.

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