Washington, DC

Photo by PoPville flickr user Eric P.

“Dear PoPville,

I was just wondering if we could get an update on the recommendations made by the Task Force on Emergency Medical Services developed after Rosenbaum’s death in 2007.


The Mayor seems to be capitulating on actually reforming DC FEMS and looking for quick fixes that pad private sector wallets.”

From the Mayor’s office:

“Mayor Muriel Bowser presented a plan to the DC Council to reform the emergency medical response system. Year after year, the District’s Fire & Emergency Medical Services (FEMS) Department has experienced a significant increase in calls and inadequate investment in training and equipment. Annual calls have increased by nearly 28% since August 2011. Increasing call volume – setting a record in each of the last three months – and a lack of sufficient investment in training and equipment over the years is straining response and quality of care.

In order to reform the EMS system, FEMS will overhaul training for emergency medical responders, improve system processes, and enhance communications, which will ensure that the right resources are dispatched on every call. In addition, the Mayor will propose emergency legislation that will enable FEMS to work with third party providers to transport lower acuity patients. The emergency legislation will put more ambulances on the street by authorizing FEMS to contract with third party service providers to transport low-priority calls (e.g. cold symptoms, ankle sprains, and general non acute sick calls).

While emergency medical responders are dutifully serving the District, they have an aging fleet of ambulances that is unreliable. That is why, in Mayor Bowser’s first budget, the Administration invested $8 million to improve the District’s ambulance fleet in the coming year. However, the ambulances FEMS is purchasing, refurbishing and leasing only maintain the status quo as demand rises. In short, current resources are outpaced by the unprecedented demand for ambulance transport.

“My emergency legislation represents a pragmatic solution to a very real and pressing challenge,” said Mayor Bowser. “Once we have these EMS enhancements in place, FEMS can better train our providers, maintain our current fleet, and improve our dispatch and deployment. My team has looked at all the options, and this is the best way to improve quality of care.”

Emergency procurement will be open for 120 days, followed by a long-term competitive bidding process. FEMS will continue to respond to ALL 911 calls – and will determine when to request a third party service provider for transport. If a patient being transported by the service provider deteriorates and becomes a higher priority call, the provider will be required to call 911/FEMS.

“This legislation will help FEMS ramp up our ambulance availability in a short period of time,” said FEMS Chief Gregory Dean. “This will free up our current fleet for scheduled and unscheduled maintenance, and will enable FEMS to improve our EMS service delivery overall and to better train our team.”

Third party providers will have to meet high performance requirements, including response times – and will be regulated by the Department of Health, just like all transport companies that currently operate in the District for special events.”


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