City promises solution to Cleveland's ambulance shortage

Posted at 8:29 PM, Dec 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-29 20:29:35-05

Imagine calling 911 and having the dispatcher tell you to wait because there aren’t any ambulances to take you to the hospital. That is the reality in Cleveland, where more calls come in than there are ambulances to respond to them.

“My father died of a tragic heart attack because it took 52 minutes for a private ambulance service to get to our house to rescue my father,” said Cleveland City Councilman Matt Zone.

Zone who chairs the Council’s Public Safety Committee knows all too well that seconds count.

“Peoples’ lives depend on this and it’s really incumbent upon the city to make sure that we not only have the necessary apparatuses but the employees to staff them and get people to where they need to go in a timely manner,” he said.

But Cleveland doesn’t have the apparatus or the staff to respond to all the city’s 911 calls. Just this week, ambulances were unavailable for two separate calls. One was a patient having a seizure and another was a patient with chest pain.

Ambulances aren’t all though, the city experiences an influx of calls and has a lack of dispatch staff to answer them. The city announced earlier in the year, it was hiring new dispatchers to cut down on wait times.

“Citizens can rest assured there will be an improvement in response times as well as the frequency in vehicles rolling on our street on any given time,” said Zone.

The city’s ambulance shortage has been a problem for some time, but because of an income tax hike, a solution is on the horizon.

The new tax hike, the first since the 1980s, will provide an extra $40 million, some of which will go towards hiring more than 60 new paramedics, and will increase the number of 24-hour ambulances from 18 to 21.

“We want to move this department in a spot where it can really do great things,” said Zone.

In the meantime, while an ambulance may not be available, according to city officials, police and fire fighters are trained to respond and if you’re having a health emergency, someone from the city of Cleveland will be there to help.