Firefighters union responds to EMS response times

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There's growing concern whether Indianapolis has enough medics on the street.

The county agency that pays EMS workers say there's no problem. But insiders say units are being forced to shut down, leaving troubling response gaps across the city and now, the president of the local firefighters union is speaking out.

City ambulances sat idle for 800 hours so far this year, out of service for various reasons, according to Marion County Health and Hospital.

But inside sources at Indianapolis EMS say the trucks are shut down due to a lack manpower, leaving those on the job scrambling to fill gaps in coverage across the city. Complaints about those staffing shortages have reached Mike Reeves, President of Local 416, the union representing firefighters and medics.

"I've got documentation that there have been many units shut down through the month of January," said Reeves.

13 Investigates showed you the days inside sources say ambulances were forced out of service - 13 days to be exact - between January 1st and the 20th.

"You get tired," Reeves said, explaining the bulk of the complaints, "With the shortage in staffing that they have, it's just providing a heavy burden on their employees."

IEMS Chief Dr. Charles Miramonti told 13 Investigates the system is efficient, but admitted there have been shortages and times when trucks were not running.

"We work around the clock to mitigate those, either through calling staff in, to moving trucks around which is the most accessible strategy we have, we essentially float trucks to where the demand is," Miramonti told 13 Investigates.

"From my understanding they have a shortage of employees to provide the manpower, staffing on the units and they hire part time employees, that's limited. They offer overtime and still they are not getting enough," explained Reeves.

Insiders, the union and Health and Hospital, the county agency that pays EMS workers, all agree Indianapolis has a pool of qualified paramedics.

But IEMS says it only needs - and is only hiring - EMT positions at $12 an hour. Paramedics who take the jobs are eligible for promotion, but there are no guarantees.

Still, IEMS maintains its response times have never been better, getting ambulances on the scene within national fire standards: Under nine minutes, 90 percent of the time.

"We are meeting response time standards that this county, this city has never seen," countered Miramonti.

But Reeves says it's IFD, the city's first responders, who are logging those response times below nine minutes more than 90 percent of the time.

On days when there are shortages, Reeves said firefighters warn they're spending too much time waiting for the ambulance to show up.

"They're concerned because of the ALS transport unit won't get there in a timely fashion. One of (the firefighters) said they were 18 minutes, waiting on a transporting unit. That keeps them out of service," said Reeves before heading into a meeting with the IEMS staff.

EMS spokeswoman Michelle O'Keefe provided confirmed what our sources have been telling us.

"Vehicles have been taken out of service every day," O'Keefe said. "Please note that shifts in staffing may occur due to things like FMLA, military leave, paid time off, etc. Our system is built with multiple redundancies and designed to ensure that areas are covered when an ambulance is out of service for any reason (staffing, training, maintenance, etc.). Again, we are exceeding our goal of responding to a scene within 9 minutes 90 percent of the time."

O'Keefe says Indianapolis EMS has 240 full and part time medics. Over the last six months the agency has hired 19 EMTs and still has six positions unfilled.

Employment Numbers IEMS

Full-time EMTs - 76
Full-time Paramedics - 129
Part-time EMTs - 9
Part-time Paramedics - 26