Roughly 19% of FDNY's EMS providers were out sick on Christmas day

Crew members are isolating, and union VP Anthony Alomojera said there’s been a rush of unvaccinated New Yorkers with COVID-19 who need ambulances


Thomas Tracy and Clayton Guse
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — The FDNY faced a shortage of EMS crews over the holiday, stretching the department thin as it struggled to respond to a surge of emergency calls made worse by the omicron wave.

Roughly 19% of the city’s more than 4,000 EMS workers were out sick Saturday, Christmas day, up from the typical rate of about 5%, an FDNY spokesman said.

“Christmas day is usually not that busy,” said Anthony Alomojera, vice president of Local 3621. “This isn’t people falling down and breaking their legs. It’s COVID related.”
“Christmas day is usually not that busy,” said Anthony Alomojera, vice president of Local 3621. “This isn’t people falling down and breaking their legs. It’s COVID related.” (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The shortage — caused in part by crews isolating with COVID-19 cases — comes as the city’s daily number of cases continued a record-breaking streak.

New York state figures show there were more than 27,000 confirmed cases of the virus in the city in the 24-hour period ending Friday morning, and a positivity rate of more than 10%. City hospitalization rates, however, remain lower than previous pandemic peaks.

But Anthony Alomojera, vice president of Local 3621 — the FDNY’s EMS officers union — pointed out there’s still been a rush of unvaccinated New Yorkers with COVID-19 who need ambulances.

“Christmas day is usually not that busy,” said Alomojera. “This isn’t people falling down and breaking their legs. It’s COVID related.”

The FDNY over the holiday got about 4,500 ambulance calls per day, up about With too few crews to get the job done, FDNY brass on Friday eliminated the department’s cap on overtime work for EMS workers — and will allow crews to work shifts of up to 18 hours “at their discretion,” according to a department memo.

Personal leave is on hold — and most training classes have been suspended to free up crews to respond to calls, the memo states.

The FDNY took similar steps to free up crews in early November, when hundreds of the department’s employees called in sick to protest Mayor Bill de Blasio’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city workers.

Alomojera said the memo means crews are mandated to work extra shifts — and EMS workers are fed up after spending nearly two years on the front lines of the pandemic.

“It’s the perfect storm,” said Alomojera. “You have pandemic burnout and an incredibly young workforce, a majority have less than five years on the job. The EMTs and medics are doing a good work, but the job has been run into the ground by the city.”

Alomojera worked out of EMS Station 40 in Sunset Park — and said there was only one crew available on Christmas to respond to calls in all of south Brooklyn. “They’re pulling units to work other areas,” he said. “We have units going over the bridge to Staten Island, because there’s nobody.”

Alomojera spent the day cooking a Christmas meal for the dozen EMS workers who operate out of Station 40 — but he didn’t think the crews would get a chance to sit down for a meal.

“I’m preparing to-go plates,” said Alomojera. “They’re going to be out there all day.”

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©2021 New York Daily News

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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