EMT shortage leaves some without emergency service
By Sandra Chapman, WTHR investigative reporter - bio | email
The city is dealing with a shortage of EMTs and paramedics.
13 Investigates how often ambulances were left parked without qualified emergency technicians, leaving some areas of the city without needed emergency service.
A fire on the city's east side and Indianapolis EMS was on scene, ready to load and go. But 13 Investigates has learned there is not always adequate staffing for the city's EMS team, and ambulances are being forced out of service.
"That's not good," said Harminder Singh of Marion County.
"Kind of disturbing," added John Colglazier.
"We had a few days here and there where we might not have a truck running," confirmed IEMS Chief Dr. Charles Miramonti.
But inside sources who have seen the actual numbers say those few days are more common than you think. They tell 13 Investigates a review of the first 20 days of this calendar year reveals ambulances forced out of service more than half of those days, due to a lack of staffing.
Ambulances parked 13 days, to be exact.
The problems started January 3. Medics 14, 17, 54 and 62 all sat empty. Over the following week, IEMS saw some improvement with one or two shut downs a day.
Then came another spike on January 11, with three ambulances sitting
The very next day, on January 12, the highest number yet, with five ambulances unstaffed and unable to take runs.
Dr. Miramonti says his team is working around the clock to counteract the shortages by calling in help and floating trucks to impacted areas.
Some Marion County residents are concerned.
"We need a better service. When we call 911, we need to respond right away," Singh added, after we told him what the numbers showed.
"Will their ambulances be there when they need them?," questioned 13 Investigates.
"Absolutely...oh, absolutely...Our ambulances continue to maintain our national standard response times," reassured Miramonti.
That means responding in nine minutes, 90 percent of the time.
Insiders tell 13 Investigates the response times are anywhere from 10-20 minutes during the shutdowns.
Translated into runs, critics say that means as many as 10,000 Marion County residents will fail to get the best response. One of the areas impacted most by the shutdowns is on the south side in Franklin Township.
Medic 54 has been pulled out of service four times already this year. Colglazier thought living just around the corner would be an added benefit.
"Until you told me about this, I had no clue. I always thought, 'Hey, we're close to a fire station, close to ambulance service, I have no worries. But now, I don't know. It could mean a matter of life and death if something happens," said Colglazier.
"To say that we are not doing it more efficiently today is absolute...it's just wrong," the IEMS Chief said, refuting the critics who questioned the city's efficiency.
Miramonti says a new recruit class will be taking to the streets in coming days. He's also reviewing staffing patterns to ensure city ambulances have a steady flow.
"I think there's a sweet spot in there between patient care and a happy productive work environment, and we're trying to find that on an everyday basis," said Miramonti.
A spokesman with Marion County Health and Hospital would not confirm the specific dates of the shutdowns. But they did confirm that IEMS has been unable to staff four percent of its hours so far in January. That amounts to roughly 800 hours so far that ambulances have been pulled out of service due to staffing shortages.