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Mayor Must Intervene In Ambulance Shortage, Inspector General Says

Author: Pam Zekman

(CBS) — For years, the 2 Investigators have been reporting on excessive Chicago ambulance response times that can endanger people with medical emergencies.

Now, in a candid interview, the city’s inspector general is calling for Mayor Emanuel to step in and do something about the problem.

“The importance of stories like yours is it points to the consequences,” says Chicago City Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.

The standard ambulance response time should be six minutes. Yet, over the past three years, the 2 Investigators have repeatedly found response times that greatly exceed that standard. These include:

–a 16-minute response for a woman hit by a truck at the corner of Washington and LaSalle

–a 22-minute response to get to a girl shot near the 1400 block of North Sedgwick

–a 33-minute response for a senior with chest pains.

“It should be concerning to the public,” Ferguson tells CBS 2’s Pam Zekman. “It should make one person absolutely apoplectic, and that person is the one person who can do something about this, and that’s the mayor, who can tell his fire commissioner to get into the game.”

Chicago Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago did agree three years ago that at least five additional ambulances were needed but has yet to add them.

A 2013 Inspector General report said ambulances only met national response standards 58 percent of the time. The recommendation is 90 percent.

By 2015, the Inspector General found that suggested ambulance response reforms were not implemented.

“Sometimes a good boot up the backside is what’s needed,” Ferguson adds.

The report also says the city of Chicago inaccurately averages response times.

Paramedics CBS 2 talked with – they asked for anonymity — say they see the delays on a daily basis.

“I absolutely believe people have died already because ambulances couldn’t get there in time,” one of the paramedics said.

While calls for fire-related emergencies have declined, calls for ambulances have increased over the last three years.

“We have not adjusted our resources, our apparatus our personnel to actually meet the services the public is calling for,” Ferguson says.

He says he does not buy the city’s claim that it’s meeting the proper ambulance response standards.

“When lives are at stake, if the leadership of the fire department won’t respond, then we all have to look to the mayor to step in.”

Mayor Emanuel is apparently stepping in.

After CBS 2 sought comment from the administration, a spokesperson said: “Providing the highest quality emergency medical services and rapid ambulance response times is a priority of the Emanuel Administration.”

Emanuel has directed the fire commissioner to submit recommendations on additional ambulances by the end of the first quarter of 2018, the spokesperson says.

“The city will diligently work to determine the appropriate locations for any additional ambulances,” a statement said.

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