Mayor: DC looking at 'every option' to address ambulance shortage

- There has been strong reaction to our report about a D.C. medic who appeared to be sleeping on the job during an ambulance run. The ambulance picked up a man at a D.C. homeless shelter Thursday after he was experiencing stomach pains.

A friend went with him in the ambulance and took cell phone video appearing to show the paramedic sitting behind his sick friend asleep during the whole ride.

FOX 5 spoke with the Mayor Muriel Bowser Friday morning about the video.

“I saw it maybe on your broadcast this morning and just as any allegation against personnel, we will be investigating internally,” she told us.

D.C. Fire and EMS are struggling mightily to keep up with the demand for EMS care in the District. EMTs, paramedics and firefighters are responding to more than 500 calls a day in a growing city.

Although the mayor promised to have 49 ambulances on the street during peak hours, in recent weeks, the fire department has been unable to get that done.

We are told the problem is equipment and there are not enough ambulances to fulfill the promise.

At an event honoring firefighters on Friday, Mayor Bowser said a plan is in the works to solve the problem.

Here is our conversation with the mayor.

Wagner: “I know you get asked about this constantly, but I am just wondering if there is a more solid answer here. Are you thinking about leasing ambulances to try and get enough on the street?”

Bowser: “We will be prepared to talk to you about what we need to do to get the number of vehicles we need and we have all options on the table.”

Wagner: “Including leasing?”

Bowser: “We have every option on the table.”

Wagner: “Mutual aid?”

Bowser: “Every option on the table.”

Wagner: “Is there anything you can say to the citizens to make them feel a little bit better about what’s going on in the city as far as EMS concerns?”

Bowser: “Absolutely. I think that we have done what has been needed to be done and getting a leader at the top who has a vision and a focus on EMS. We knew we had an issue when I took office on January 2nd with vehicles, with increasing numbers of calls and we’re getting our arms around it. I think people should be assured that the men and women that we’re celebrating here today, when they go out on a fire truck, they are prepared to answer medical calls. They are the first on the scene and we are very grateful for the quality medical care that they provide on the scene.”

The mayor said the fire department hopes to have those 49 ambulances on the street by October -- if not sooner.

D.C. Fire and EMS Chief Gregory Dean said in an interview this week the fire department is expecting delivery of 14 new ambulances in the fall.

However, one of the department’s biggest problems is keeping up with the demand for rigs. There is no reserve fleet and when old ambulances wear out, the new ones coming in are just taking their place.

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