WASHINGTON — D.C. Council members gave unanimous approval Tuesday to a proposal that will allow the city to hire outside parties to bolster the District’s troubled ambulance fleet.
Under the plan, Fire Chief Gregory Dean will have the authority to bring in private ambulance companies to respond to patients who have nonserious conditions. Those in immediate need of critical care will be taken by D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services ambulances.
“Maybe we found a new way of doing business as it relates to this life-giving service,” said Council member Anita Bonds.
The D.C. ambulance fleet has been frequently criticized for slow response times and ambulance shortages. In some cases, fire trucks have had to transport critically injured patients to the hospital.
Dean said last week that his department is currently overwhelmed on a daily basis.
“The District’s current emergency medical services call volume is at an historic high, and it increases every month,” Council member Kenyan McDuffie said Tuesday. “This is a solution to a long-standing problem.”
Ed Smith, president of the DC firefighters union, said Wednesday of the situation, “We can’t keep up with our current workload. We do need to think outside the box.”
Smith is hoping, however, that the move proves to be a short-term fix rather than a permanent one. The fire chief has said the private ambulance policy will be reevaluated after one year.
“This will allow everyone to take a break so we can reassess what staffing we need to accomplish our core mission,” said Smith.