Ambulance availability troubles persist in Oklahoma City

"Level zero" occurs when the Emergency Medical Services Authority reports no ambulances are available to take calls


By William Crum
The Oklahoman

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma City's ambulance service has been at the center of a federal kickback investigation. 

EMSA ambulance service declarations of "level zero" conditions are persisting in 2017 in Oklahoma City but the frequency and duration of outages have eased, according to Oklahoma City Fire Department records.

Level zero occurs when the Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA) reports no ambulances are available to take calls.

In those situations, firefighters must respond to additional medical calls, putting pressure on staffing and raising costs for the city.

In 2015, the Fire Department logged more than 160 level zero declarations.

Records for 2017 show level zero conditions had been declared 40 times through Sept. 24. The average duration is about 20 minutes, down from nearly three hours in 2015.

Level zero occurrences have been among troubles for the ambulance service.

News from a special meeting Tuesday in Stroud of the trustees is that the EMSA president and chief executive officer, Stephen Williamson, is retiring effective Thursday.

The federal government accused EMSA of fraud in a civil case filed early this year in east Texas.

Williamson said the timing of his retirement "allows the focus to shift back on the high quality of care EMSA continues to provide."

Copyright 2017 The Oklahoman

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