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And Councilmember Mary Cheh says Ellerbe should probably be looking for a new job.
Frustration is building after a scathing report on the fire department’s problems and Councilmember Mary Cheh says if the fire chief can’t come up with an immediate plan, he might want to dust off his resume.
One problem after another has plagued D.C.’s ambulance service for months. Long waits, units sidelined with mechanical failures, staffing shortages.
And now a 29-page report outlines a department in disarray.
“Unless he has an immediate response that has some comprehensive plan we could have confidence in, then he should be looking for something else,” Cheh says.
Ellerbe had asked the council to sign off on a new plan that would redeploy ambulance crews to periods of peak usage, but the public safety committee voted that plan down.
“He’s got to get on top of things,” Council Chairman Phil Mendelson says. “Clearly things need to be happening.”
But Cheh says she’s running out of patience.
“We’re left with a department that is on its way down and the people of DC are not going to take that,” Cheh says. “I’m not going to take that.”
The D.C. City Council’s Judiciary Committee voted down a plan Friday by the mayor and the fire chief to re-deploy ambulances during peak demand times.
A vote that came one day after Chairman Tommy Wells released a highly critical report on the department’s staffing and resources.
The vote was four to zero with committee member Murial Bowser abstaining, telling committee Chairman Tommy Wells she needed more time to study the report.
But even with Bowser’s abstention the committee is sending a message to the full council the plan should not be approved.
Wells says he knows of no council members who are in favor of it.
A stinging rebuke, for DC’s embattled fire chief and allegations that none of us are safe because the fire service is so badly managed.
For months now, DC Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe has been pushing a dramatic redeployment of paramedics off the night shift and on to the day shift. A DC council committee is now telling him to forget it, voting 3-0 with one abstention to disapprove his plan.
Committee chair Tommy Wells points to a series of scary failures: an injured cop left to wait while medic units from Maryland had to scramble to pick him up; a carjacking suspect who died after the ambulance he was in stopped running.
“This is not just isolated incidents,” says Wells. “This is a pattern of ambulances not being able to transport people in need.”
The fire chief’s plan would have left the city without any advanced life support units on the street overnight.
In a 29 page report, the committee chair says the department has lost track of its own fleet, has failed to keep enough medics on staff, and cannot even explain its own redeployment plan.
“We have apparatus challenges on a daily basis,” says firefighter union chief Ed Smith. “We are short-staffed firefighter paramedics. They’re holding, forcefully holding people over their shift. So you do 24 hours, and you’re forced to do another 12 hours, against their will.”
Fire Chief Ellerbe was no where to be seen at the committee vote and his spokesman has failed to return phone calls.
Committee chair Wells says the problem is management. “This is not a problem with funding. This council has fully funded the emergency response of the city. This is about execution.”
Despite the problems, the Mayor’s office insists there will be enough medics on hand to handle any emergency on the 4th of July.