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NY council probes delayed ambulance response times

From July 1 to July 7, 6 percent of calls were not answered in a timely manner

The Buffalo News

BUFFALO, N.Y. Add Erie County to the list of those raising questions about ambulance response times.

Last month, Buffalo’s Emergency Medical Services Board sought answers from Rural/Metro Medical Services about its failure to meet its goals for response times.

County legislators raised similar concerns on Thursday during a meeting of the Legislature’s Public Safety Committee.

The county looked at the week of July 1 through July 7 when 925 calls were made for ambulance service.

Sixty-four of those calls, or roughly 6 percent, were not answered in a timely fashion, said Marlaine Hoffman, deputy director of information services for Central Police Services.

That’s not acceptable, said Legislator Edward A. Rath III, R-Amherst, who chairs the committee.

Monday and Tuesday seem to be the most problematic days, according to Daniel J. Neaverth Jr., the county’s commissioner of emergency services. People tend to wait until after the weekend to report their health issues, he said.

When asked to describe the problem with ambulance response times, Nevereth told the committee, “Everyone shares a bit of responsibility.”

Some patients have a tendency to call 911 for minor issues that probably don’t require an ambulance, he said.

Another part of the problem could come from overcrowded hospital emergency rooms, Neaverth said. Paramedics can get stuck at a hospital until their patients are tended to.

“Even if you only cause 1 percent of the delay, this adds up to someone else’s delay and creates a problem,” he said.

One solution may be to use a taxi service to handle the minor cases, which would free up the ambulances for the more serious ones.

Lawmakers made no decisions on the issue Thursday, but will continue to discuss the problem at future meetings.

Copyright 2016 The Buffalo News