District officials are defending the initial response to a baby in distress in Southeast D.C. Thursday afternoon. A paramedic arrived at the apartment within four minutes, but getting an ambulance to the scene was another matter. The closest one was seven miles away.
The baby later died.
D.C. police is investigating the baby's death as undetermined and will have to wait for a ruling from the medical examiner.
No one answered the door when we went back to the apartment on Friday and it is unclear what led up to the call for help.
Engine Company 30 with a paramedic on board responded to the apartment and began advanced life support. When firefighters learned the ambulance was seven miles away, they made the decision to transport the baby. Another ambulance met the fire engine en route to the hospital where the child was pronounced dead.
Officials confirm the fire department has not been able to staff the number of ambulances residents had been promised. We spoke with Rashad Young, the city administrator for the District of Columbia, on Friday about the ambulance shortage.
"Our desire was to put on this power shift with ten additional units rolling on the street," he said. "We have been doing that as consistently as we can while we have been trying to improve our fleet, acquire new fleet and improve our fleet maintenance practices to keep these rigs on the road and maintain staffing and overtime to cover those slots. We're working hard to do that."
Young also added, "We are having an exploding number of EMS requests in the District. Our population is growing by nearly 800 persons a month. We have a surge of people obviously that are coming into this community each and every day for work reasons and tourists in to visit. So we are experiencing and seeing a phenomenal growth and trend in EMS calls, and so we rely on mutual aid as do many jurisdictions and most jurisdictions do in the country."
According to the Young, D.C. Fire and EMS has struggled to staff 49 ambulances through the afternoon and into the evening as promised. There have been equipment problems and staffing shortages.
In the last two days, only 39 or 40 ambulances have been working the streets and the mutual aid from Prince George's County is eye-opening.
In July, the city had only asked for help nine times for Prince George's County. But in August, the numbers jumped with D.C. asking for an ambulance from the Maryland county 55 times.
So far in the first two days in September, Prince George's County has answered 14 calls in D.C.
We do hear a lot of these calls are very minor and other ambulances are being dispatched for them, which is really stressing the system.