D.C. Council chair calls lack of ambulances 'disturbing'
WTOP's Neal Augenstein reports.
UPDATE: Tuesday - 7/23/2013, 8:10 a.m. ET
Editor's note: The original story has been updated to correct information about the number of ambulances and medical services available at the Nationals game Saturday, July 20. One ambulance was on hand for both teams and one ambulance was available for fans. Wheelchairs, stretchers and "gators" were also available to transport fans experiencing medical problems. The story also now reflects the ambulance vendors for Nats Park and Verizon Center.
UPDATE: Monday - 7/22/2013, 9:18pm ET
WASHINGTON - The D.C. government is entering into a short-term agreement with an outside vendor to have ambulances staff events at Nationals Park and Verizon Center.
The response is due to the number of ambulances in D.C. that currently need serviced after the recent heatwave.
The vendor is Life Star Ambulance for Nats Park and AMR for Verizon events, according to St. Clair.
EARLIER: Monday - 7/22/2013, 12:37pm ET
WASHINGTON - D.C. Fire and EMS has been pulling ambulances because of faulty air conditioning, and the chairman of D.C. Council tells WTOP it's time for D.C. Fire Chief Ken Ellerbe to correct the problem.
"The chief needs to get ahead of the problem, which he's been promising to do for months, and it's disturbing that here we are in July and it's still a problem, particularly with regard to air conditioning," said Council Chair Phil Mendelson.
"They need to have a proactive maintenance program in place, and they need to have enough serviceable backup units in place," Mendelson said.
The decision to pull the ambulances left Nationals Park this past weekend with just one ambulance for fans and one for both the Nationals and Dodgers.
Normally there are four altogether.
Two of the ambulances that normally transport fans were out of service.
The fire department did have a backup plan for Nationals Park. The mass casualty unit and Georgetown Washington University's medical response group were on call.
Director of Communications for the District's Office for the Deputy Mayor for Safety and Justice Keith St. Clair tells WTOP that there were 40 calls for service at Saturday's Nationals game and all were dealt with - five people were transported to the hospital.
If anyone needed transported, staff would take him or her to the nearest entrance for aid. Wheelchairs, stretchers and gators are all available to transport when needed, said St. Clair.
But, the department was downgraded eight medic units Sunday. They didn't have paramedics on board to provide advanced life support.
Dabney Hudson, second vice president of D.C. Fire Fighters Association Local 36, says it's time for the department to fill 200 vacancies it has. He says the vacancies are hampering the department's ability to respond to emergencies.
Fire department spokesman Tim Wilson says the staffing shortage is not a critical safety concern. He says the department will try to hire more paramedics, but that may not happen until the end of August.
Mendelson agrees with Hudson.
"It's time to start doing some hiring," Mendelson said.
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