WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) -- Why did it take an ambulance nearly twenty minutes to reach an injured police officer?
That question was finally answered Thursday in a report released by the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice, and the report places the blame on the crews of three ambulances and one supervising officer.
But the presidents of the local police and firefighters union call the report a "joke" for going after lower-level employees instead of management.
Two weeks ago, it took nearly twenty-minutes for an ambulance to respond to a police officer that was hit by a car. That's almost three times the national average. So what took so long? According to the report, "three improperly out of service units (ambulances) failed to properly follow protocol." Medic 19 and Medic 27 had been granted out of service status, but the crews had failed to properly monitor their radios. The third unit, Ambulance 15, failed to ensure that their unit was identified as available for service. The report also blasts a supervision officer.
"We believe that an Emergency Liaison Officer, who serves as the central hub - the quarterback - for operations, failed to act appropriately," said Paul Quander, Deputy Mayor of Public Safety and Justice
Seven people - paramedics, firefighters, and one supervising officer - are now facing disciplinary action. Quander blames the incident on human error, not a system-wide problem. But the president of the local firefighters union disagrees, especially when it comes to Ambulance 15.
"It was an error in the computer system. They are exemplary employees," said Ed Smith, president of the local firefighters union.
Smith blames it on a computer glitch that's been going on for years.
"I think there is a systemic problem with the computer system," said Smith. "It's too easy for units to get lost in the system."
"I don't think it's a problem with the system," counters Quander. "I am unaware of any computer glitches. I'm also unaware of any issues."
In order to keep what happened the night of March 5th from happening again, the report also lists several "remedies" including:
- four backup ambulances fully stocked and on standby
- system alerts when the numbers of available units drops below five
- the establishment of a response task force
Smith argues that's still not enough.
"I think we need more units and more staffing," said Quander.