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A $780 bill for a DC ambulance that never came. Family of man who died New Year’s Eve outraged.

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Previous coverage of the story

This is the latest story about the fallout from the New Year’s staffing shortage experienced by the DC Fire & EMS Department. This story of adding insult to death is reported by Shomari Stone at WRC-TV/NBC 4. Durand Ford Sr. died early New Year’s Day. It took 33 minutes to get an ambulance to his residence.

There has been a lot debated about this incident and what happened New Year’s Eve. Maybe I missed it, but in all the coverage I have yet to see anyone ask a question that jumped right out at me when I first saw the timeline of the event. If there were no DC ambulances or medic units available, why did the Office of Unified Communications (the 911 center) wait 23 minutes to request EMS from neighboring Prince George’s County? Maybe I’m just reading it wrong.


Durand Ford, Jr. says DC Fire & EMS has sent him a $780.85 bill for an ambulance that he called for his father early on the morning of January 1.

Ford tells News4 that his father died waiting for that ambulance, after it took more than 30 minutes to arrive.

“I feel angry. Upset,” Ford said. “I’m disturbed that we even received this bill.”

Ford said he and his family called 911 in the early hours of New Year’s Day because his father, 71-year-old Durand Ford, Sr. had trouble breathing.

According to records, the 911 call was made at 1:25 a.m. A DC fire truck arrived only nine minutes later, but an ambulance was unavailable. According to Prince George’s County Fire & EMS records, DC Fire did not call Prince George’s County for assistance until 1:47 a.m. One minute later, the county dispatched an ambulance from Oxon Hill to go to Ford’s home in Southeast Washington. It arrived at 1:58 a.m.

DC Fire & EMS did not return News4’s request for comment.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • Commenter

    “To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States…” U.S. Const., s. 8, para. 17.

    The District government is incompetent and redundant. The Congress should be the legislative branch of the District, and should appoint a city manager. The government of the District of Columbia should be a council-manager government with the US Congress as the council. Those district citizens feeling disenfranchised should exercise their right to move to one of the 50 states. Alternatively, for purposes of voting, people from DC could be treated as living overseas, and vote in absentia from one of the 50 states.

    Waiting 23 minutes to call mutual aid is inexcusably incompetent.

    • Fire21

      Sending a bill for services not rendered is also inexcusably incompetent. And insulting to the Ford family. I think I’d sue for $780.85 plus lawyer fees, just to make the point.

  • InfamousJ

    Dave, Couldn’t agree more… waiting 23 minutes to ask for ‘help’ is ridiculous..
    but, if everyone pays close to attention to the radio, ‘stand by for the transport unit’ happens DAILY.

    • Doing it.

      You are absolutely correct. EVERY SINGLE DAY WE RUN OUT OF AMBULANCES. Not just high volume days like New Year’s Eve.

  • Anonymous

    The District of Columbia is a joke. The Fire Department administration is the laughing stock of the country. Hopefully that fire administrator gets a clue and realizes that he’s a failure. I feel sorry for my brothers and sisters who work for the DCFD

  • Pipeman

    I’m surprised this doesn’t happen more in this city.

    • Dcfireman

      It would happen more except for the majority of the people in DC call 9-1-1 for needless reasons ie stubbed toes, hangovers, itchy crotch, etc fight
      with all their might to beat their illnesses and survive to needlessly call 9-1-1 another day. I feel sorry for this family but I fear their loved ones death will change nothing

  • Tom

    If DC Fire/EMS routinely charges for services performed by other agencies…that would be fraud!

    Perhaps it was a one time mistake?

  • Anonymous

    Everyone saying they should sue, think about this: While DC FEMS is responsible IMHO, sueing them would only be taking money from other tax payers (robbing Peter to pay Paul). To me, this is borderline ciminal. Chief Ellerbe (along with the rest of the entire D.C. government)has been pushing his own agenda since day one with total disregard for the employees and more imporantly the citizens of the District.

  • common

    As far as the bill goes the 3rd service billing company sends a bill to what was entered in the EPCR prob done by the Engine or Truck that was dispatched. Who knows how Oxon Hill will bill. The easy soultion is dont pay your bill just like everyone else the ambulances take to the hospital. Unfortunately this gentleman actually needed help unlike 90% of the people that abuse/use the EMS system.

  • Fire21

    People all over abuse whatever public service they can find. 911 dispatchers get the most ridiculous calls, from “what time is it” to “my dog ran away”. We had an EMS call the other day for a dislocated thumb…that sure warrants an ambulance!! Cops get sent on ridiculous calls daily. And we all are well aware of the calls FDs answer where simple common sense on the “victim’s” part would have saved the run. While we’re all out taking care of this type of nuisance call, the real victims are waiting and waiting…….

    It’s all part of the “I deserve everyone’s help” society in which we live.

  • Anonymous

    The bill as it reads is fraudulent…and poor judgement.

    Perhaps they served as Als, and oxon hill in a bls transport capacity?

    If so, the bill for paramedic services, not ambulance services.

    Either, poor judgement for dc to bill this one.

    Does PG bill or are they still making the insurance carriers more money by not?

    • BH

      Only the transporting service can bill. In other words- not your ambulance, you can’t bill.

  • Dirk Diggler

    Ahhh…I love work i work… DCFEMS Management is at about, a 25 year low… These Higher ups are as bad as it gets… A JOKE, You would think that someone making over a 100k a year would have gotten in front of this, but NOPE… More of same, if this would have been a troop on the ground, their ass would be handed to them… Hat in HAND, shown the door! Not to mention, our beloved communications division, another JOKE… Waiting to ask for help, what are you – friking idiots… Oh and our PIO, no return phone call… You sure are worth your check… If you expect anything from 911, it is going to be all the men and women in BLUE… If you see a white shirt,being worn by someone who thinks they are important- don’t bother, they havent a fuc#ing clue…

  • Aardvark

    This story is ” par for the course “, the way this Country is going. Nations Capitol at its best.

  • Ron Stuart

    PIO does NOTHING for this department and takes home over 100k a year. 911 center is the worst in the United States. However in DC we keep tradition alive. “standby for the ambulance” is something we have done for almost 30 years. The only difference in this case is that the ambulance didn’t take 3 hours to come…

  • Ron Stuart

    Aardvark, you are an idiot. This country is doing well after 2 major unfunded wars- and the DOW reflects it at 14k. The naysayers are the Fox News idiots like yourself, so please don’t insult this nation by comparing it to the management of DCFEMS.

    • xray

      Oh and by the way Ron, they forgot to mention the vast surplus the nations capitol currently has because of their superior financial acumen.They can’t have it both ways,if the city and DCFIRE&EMS were doing bad financially they would say “see he cant handle a budget”.The last bonehead ran the budget into the ground (Rubin)and these jokers said nothing.You cant satisfy people especially when things aren’t going how they want it to be.Is the DCFIRE&EMS department perfect NO,but its being ran prettty well compared to alot of other agencies.Just take alook across the country the past couple years,alot of departments had to either layoff,or utilize furloughs to stay in budget. And yes Aardvark is an idiot and he/she doesn’t have to work here he/she can work where they are from.Yeah and we are full of faux news coat tail bandwagon naysayers here in good ole DCFIRE&EMS.

  • outthedoor

    Mr. Ford,
    I’m sorry for your loss.
    Do not worry about that bill. As all the chronic abusers will tell you; just ignore it.
    DC has a very efficient system for sending these bills out. However, there is no system in place for collecting from those that don’t pay.
    Instead, please focus your anger on holding your city government accountable for the decline in service under Gary and the petty tyrant(loserbe). I can assure you, you will be stunned when you see through the charade that is DCFEMS management.
    You deserve better, demand it.

  • Pipeman27

    DC should take some of their abundance if $ and pay lifestar to run all of our bs alpha and omega calls.

  • David S.

    What a joke Mr ford needs to use the bill as toilet paper then get a good attorney.

  • anonymous

    There has been a lot of inaccurate facts put out about this incident. The reason he received a bill is because a DC ambulance did transport his father to the hospital, and it ended up being an ALS transport. Although a PG medic unit was dispatched, a DC ambulance ended up arriving first and did the transport.

    • Pipeman27

      They’re upset and rightfully so that it took so long to get an ambo there for transport. A major contributing factor is the fact that the dept chose to leave 10 transport units out of service on NYE. It’s amazing more ppl didn’t die.

  • retired EMS Director

    Does the city have an automatic aid program in place with surrounding jurisdictions so the closest appropriate unit is dispatched? If not, why? Turf battles? Neighbors tired of picking up the city’s slack?

    Dispatch protocols need to be updated. Are dispatchers given any discretion to request neighboring departments for assistance? Why don’t the have a call screening and priority dispatch program in place- that works well in other cities and reduces costs, response times, and citizen complaints!

    Isn’t DC the same place where it had been previously announced they would cut back on ambulance crews at night and only provide BLS servicexs? How do they base that decision and how do they defend it in court?

    DC almost sounds as bad as to what is happening in Detroit with its EMS program.

    And when I read some comments that are obviously made by some of the DC staff, their lack of respect for the citizens they serve makes one wonder if the organizational “attitude” needs significant adjustment “from the top down.” Of course, it will take someone in a strong leadership position to do things that some may find overbearing but necessary to get the ship steered in the right direction!

  • Anonymous

    Pipeman27, why stop there, why not let private ambulances transport all non-emergency patients; send an ambulance or a medic unit emergency, send a private ambulance non-emergency.

    125,000 responses. 25,000 transports.

    33 Fire Department transport units, one per station. How much of a subsidy would a private ambulance company need in order to operate 10-40 ambulances making 125k responses and 70,000 transports?

  • Anonymous

    The PG Ambulance was only dispatched after a crew member of the fire truck on scene doing CPR got tired of waiting for the Ambulance the city never dispatched. Instead of sending Ambulances on priority calls, the city just dispatched them in cue for ALL CALLS ranging from cut fingers, intoxicated people, and eventually the CPR in progress. The crew had to ask the dispatchers in DC to contact PG County for an Ambulance because it was taking so long…makes you wonder who they’re hiring up there in the Communications office.

  • BH

    Wasn’t one of the stipulations of the Rosenbaum settlement that DC improve their EMS system? Is this what passes for “improvement” these days?

  • The Voice

    Maybe if all the scumbags who never really need ambalampses didn’t call…or maybe if the retarded dispatchers they have down there now knew how to prioritize calls instead of letting the computer do all of their work for them. Maybe then that guy wouldve gotten an ambulance.