Ambulance fleet falls short while calls surge

WASHINGTON — The District is falling short of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s goal of deploying 49 ambulances during peak times, even as calls for service hit record highs month after month.

The familiar concern surrounding D.C. Fire and EMS came to the fore again last week, when none of the 39 ambulances in service was available to assist a dying child in Southeast.

The child, who was initially treated in a fire engine, ultimately died. It’s not clear whether an available ambulance could have saved the boy’s life.

“If there’s not an ambulance available, that speaks to something seriously at issue that’s got to be figured out and addressed,” says Phil Mendelson, chairman of the D.C. Council.

In March, Bowser announced that 49 ambulances would be deployed to help cover the heaviest call volume, between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m.

But ambulance maintenance problems have hampered the goal of making 10 more units available for response.

The mayor’s office confirmed D.C. Fire and EMS did hit the goal in the first few months, but surging calls for service — many abusing the system — have “run them ragged,” an official said.

Abuse of 911 has emerged as a significant concern among city leaders. Over the past three months, call volume has set record highs.

Forty-six new ambulances will be coming online in the next fiscal year.

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