S.F. mayor 'OK' with ambulance response time to wife's accident

Amid response time struggles, he said his wife felt "very comfortable" with the arrival of an ambulance in 12 minutes, two minutes over the 10-minute goal


Marisa Lagos and John Coté
San Francisco Chronicle

SAN FRANCISCO  — One week after critics called for her resignation over ambulance response times, Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White is defending her agency again, this time over whether it got an ambulance quickly enough to a car crash involving Mayor Ed Lee's wife on Monday afternoon.

No one was seriously injured in the crash, but information from the Fire Department indicated that it took 12 minutes for the first ambulance to arrive.

Hayes-White said the response time met the department's goals, and Lee said he and his wife, Anita, both thought the response was “very positive, very quick, very professional.”

Anita “felt like it was less than 10 minutes,” Lee said on the sidelines of a ribbon cutting for a Mid-Market artisanal food court. “I know our experience might have been different from some others, but Anita felt very, very comfortable with the immediate arrival.”

Hayes-White told The Chronicle that the ambulance was dispatched at 2:14 p.m. as a Code 2, or non-life threatening emergency. Two minutes later, at 2:16 p.m., it was upgraded to a Code 3, and got there at 2:26 p.m., or within 10 minutes — the agency's own standard for life-threatening calls.

A second ambulance, she said, wasn't requested until a few minutes after the first arrived and got there within six minutes.

“Yesterday's response is what we typically see for a call like that -- it's a good response time. An engine got to the scene first (to provide medical care), followed by a medic on an ambulance,” Hayes-White said. “This is what we would normally like to see -- it was within our response time goals.”

Lee said his wife, after being treated at San Francisco General Hospital for chest pains, whiplash and biting her tongue, was released late Monday night and was “doing great.”

Anita Lee was a passenger in a neighbor’s car, and the two women were returning home from the gym at the time of the crash, the mayor said.

“There was this big truck in front of them that had apparently moved over for them to pass, and then something happened to the vehicle that caused it to go into the truck that was stopped,” Lee said. “We kind of got out of the hospital late last night, but she’s doing fine.”

Hayes-White has been criticized for the department's chronically late ambulance response times in recent weeks, following a Chronicle data analysis that found more than 400 cases over a year-long period in which it took longer than 10 minutes for the department to arrive at a life-threatening emergency.

The chief last week said response times had begun to improve since the agency added 16 new medics at the end of August, and asked the two private companies that provide service to San Francisco to add more resources. The mayor has remained a staunch supporter of Hayes-White, saying on Tuesday: “The fire chief is still doing a great job in my opinion.”

Still, Lee acknowledged the ambulance problems needed to be fixed.

“We’re going to improve the situation for everybody,” Lee said. “We read the stories in the paper about folks maybe waiting an inordinate amount of time for the ambulance to show up. I’m going to personally make sure that that gets improved, and I want everyone to know that.

Marisa Lagos and John Coté are a San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. E-mail: mlagos@sfchronicle.com, jcote@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @mlagos, @johnwcote

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©2014 the San Francisco Chronicle

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