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One more from DC: Engine company takes stroke victim to hospital. Council member orders hearing on EMS problems. Chief Ellerbe to hold press briefing today.

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Mayor has confidence in Chief Ellerbe despite controversies & delay in getting help for injured police officer

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Last nigth at 11:00 PM, WRC-TV/NBC 4 in Washington did another story about EMS problems in the Nation’s Capital. This one is about an engine company transporting a stroke victim to the hospital because no EMS transport units were available for a while yesterday evening. As we relayed to you yesterday, Chief Kenneth Ellerbe has been quiet about the latest incident involving his department. That apparently will change at 2:00 this afternoon according to a notification sent out from the department’s communications director a short time ago:

Kenneth B. Ellerbe, and other public officials will hold a press briefing in front of the Department’s headquarters, 1923 Vermont Avenue, NW, to address concerns that have evolved regarding EMS response times.

Shomari Stone & Mark Segraves, WRC-TV/NBC 4:

District firefighters were forced to take a man suffering from a stroke to a hospital in a fire truck Thursday evening because the closest ambulance was seven miles away.

The incident comes just two days after an injured police officer waited almost 20 minutes for an ambulance.

Now, a top city leader is calling for immediate action, reported News4’s Shomari Stone.

The latest case involved a man in his 80s at a home in the 600 block of Atlantic Avenue SE. His wife called 911, saying the man was suffering from a stroke, said deputy fire chief Demetrios Vlassopoulos.

A fire engine staffed with paramedics responded to the scene within four minutes, and an ambulance was dispatched at the same time, Vlassopoulos told News4.

The closest ambulance, however, was coming from seven miles away — too far away to respond quickly in rush hour, Vlassopoulos said. A paramedic on the scene assessed the patient and decided he needed to go to a hospital immediately, so emergency personnel transported him in the fire truck.

This is the third time that an ambulance has been too far away to respond to a medical emergency in Southeast Washington this year.

District Councilman Tommy Wells told Stone that he would call a hearing into why it’s taking so long for some ambulances to respond in the Southeast part of the city. “We do not expect that there are any delays” in ambulance service, he said.

Meanwhile, the investigation into the delayed ambulance response for an injured D.C. police officer is focusing on 10 ambulance units that were out of service at the time of the call. The man in charge of the investigation told News4 he’s trying to find out why the units were unavailable and why they were all out of service so close to the end of their shifts.

The initial calls for a pedestrian down came about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night — just 30 minutes before the shift change.

“I want to make sure that in fact no one took themselves out of service without the proper authorization and especially when it came time to ending their shift early,” Deputy Mayor Paul Quander said. “That’s unacceptable.”

Thirty-nine ambulance units were on duty at the time of the accident, Quander said, and some of the 10 that were out of service had legitimate reasons for not being able to respond to the call.

“One of the things I need to find out from this internal review is what happened to 10 of the units that were not available at that critical time,” Quander said. “Some of them may have been on runs to hospitals. Some of them may have been being cleaned. There are others I need to focus on to see whether or not they took themselves out of service without authorization.”

The officer, identified as Sean Hickman, was eventually transported by a Prince George’s County ambulance with life-threatening injuries. He suffered multiple fractures to his left leg and has had two surgeries so far.

His recovery will be long, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said.

“He’s pretty badly injured,” she said. “He underwent 7-8 hours of surgery the first night and he has additional surgeries today.”

D.C. Council member Tommy Wells, who has oversight of the fire department, called the delay “unacceptable” and launched his own inquiry.

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