New York City

De Blasio to bolster funding to cut ambulance response times

February 9, 2015 By Jonathan Lemire Associated Press
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File
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The New York City Fire Department will receive additional funding in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s upcoming budget to increase staffing in hopes of shaving precious seconds off ambulance response times to medical emergencies, city officials said Sunday.

City officials told The Associated Press on Sunday — a day before de Blasio was set to present his budget — that the increase in funds will allow the fire department to staff 45 additional ambulance shifts and employ 149 additional Emergency Medical Service dispatchers. The proposal comes on the heels of the busiest year ever for EMS, whose responders answered 1.3 million emergency calls in 2014.

“This investment will go a long way toward improving response time, ensuring that our first responders can do their jobs as effectively as possible, and potentially saving lives in communities around the city,” the mayor said in a statement.

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The average response time was 6 minutes 50 seconds in 2014, 3 seconds higher than the previous year. City officials said their goal is to cut the average to 6 minutes, 30 seconds.

The EMS ambulance fleet is part of the FDNY and has grown busier in recent years with some hospital closures across the city. For years, EMS ambulances responded to about 60 percent of medical emergencies, while the hospitals’ ambulances picked up the other 40 percent, according to FDNY officials. Now EMS handles nearly 70 percent of the calls.

Eighteen of the operation’s busiest 20 years have come in the last two decades, FDNY officials said.

Increased staffing will allow ambulances to run more frequently, particularly in three areas that have had slower-than-normal response times: the South Bronx, western Queens and Staten Island. Adding more EMS dispatchers and supervisors — a long-standing request of the dispatchers union — should also reduce delays during 911 calls, officials said.

Additionally, de Blasio is expected to announce in his capital budget later this year that he is authorizing the purchase of 32 new ambulances.

“The mayor’s investment will help reduce ambulance response times, improve the level of care provided to patients and enhance EMS dispatch operations,” Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.

De Blasio is earmarking nearly $40 million through fiscal year 2019 for the new ambulance tours and nearly $30 million during that same period for the new dispatchers, officials said.

The fiscal year begins July 1. De Blasio was scheduled to make his preliminary budget presentation Monday.

The mayor and City Council will likely strike a final agreement in late June. Last year, they reached an agreement on a $75 billion budget that took advantage of a strong local economy to fund several causes, including increased spending on schools and social services in an effort to combat income inequality. This year’s budget may look similar, with additional emphasis placed on housing programs and equipment and training for the police department in the wake of the mayor’s recent rift with the rank-and-file police unions.


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