Tag Archives: emergency workers

Why Detroit’s emergency services are lagging

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The Detroit News‘ Charlie LeDuff tried to figure out his city’s abysmal ambulance response times, and had a tough time finding excuses for why they are so far behind the national average, though staffing cuts and budget shortages certainly played a role. He wears his frustration on his sleeve and the article’s brutally incisive as a result. I’ll do my best to summarize, but it’s certainly worth a read.

One problem, according to a 2004 city audit of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) system, is that Detroit is the only major American city that does not allow a firefighter or a police officer to aid a victim before the ambulance arrives. Another problem is substandard communication equipment. Since that report was issued, at least two hospitals have closed and the EMS system has been decimated by staffing cuts causing ambulances to drive farther.

The national standard for ambulance response is eight minutes, and some Detroit suburbs have it down around five. Nobody’s sure how long Detroit ambulances take, but it’s clear that it’s well beyond the acceptable threshold. Fire Commissioner James Mack Jr. said the departments doing the best it can to maximize resources amid budget constraints, LeDuff reports.

Mack made a claim to Fox 2 News a few weeks ago that the average response time in Detroit for an ambulance to arrive on a 911 call is 12 minutes — even while admitting that often there are no units available to get to calls.

According to that 2004 audit, the two-year average at that time was about 12 minutes. And that was before the city cut its paramedics and emergency medical technicians by nearly 40 percent.

MSNBC tells of earthquake amputees, soldiers

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

In the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, an MSNBC team has set out to cover, through a variety of media, an American prosthetic group working at a rural hospital to fit limbs to hundreds of earthquake amputees. At the same time, the team is sharing personal essays written by American soldiers who lost limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s an unusual post-disaster focus that has yielded some impressive stories.

Here are a few of the most notable dispatches:

Are emergency drivers distracted by technology?

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

“Driven to Distraction,” a New York Times series that looks at the “dangers of drivers using cellphones and other electronic devices, and efforts to deal with the problem,” turns its focus on first responders, such as police and paramedics.

ambulance

Photo by rKistian via Flickr

Reporter Matt Richtel points out that emergency drivers are often required to use technological gadgets while driving at high speeds and negotiating heavy traffic to get directions and transmit information about patients.

Data does not exist about crashes caused by police officers or medics distracted by their devices. But there are tragic anecdotes.

The New York City Fire Department says ambulance drivers are not supposed to use on-board computers while driving but “medics and E.M.T.’s in New York and elsewhere say that although they are aware of the rules, they do use their on-board computers while driving.”