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Detroit EMS's community paramedicine plan fuses broken ambulances, abandoned buildings

Rig break-downs are no big deal, now that crews set up shop in the closest vacant buidling as part of a clever approach to community paramedicine

DETROIT — At a packed press conference, the mayor unveiled a bold new initiative that takes advantage of “an ambulance fleet that can’t be killed” and “the charm of the local landscape” to restore public trust in Detroit Fire and EMS.

“It occurred to me when I was ducking another round of impertinent questions from the local news hounds,” the fire commissioner said. “We were down to only six functioning ambulances in the city, and had over 30 emergency calls holding. And then it hit me – vacant buildings and broken down ambulances. There must be a way we can turn those two things into a positive.”

Taking a clever approach to community paramedicine, the city will send ambulances on the usual 911 calls. When they break down, crews will unload their gear in the nearest abandoned building and set up shop.

“Let’s be honest – our response times suck,” the commissioner said. “The only way I can see us improving them is to ask patients to come to us.”

The mayor expressed confidence in the program’s potential.

“My people crunched the numbers,” he said. “At the rate our rigs break down, we can have up to eight community paramedicine clinics open in the city at any one time. That ought to get our response time down to better than the cable company, at least.”

Eight Mile resident Emma Menimum voiced support for the program, which was piloted in her neighborhood.

“The ambulance broke down right down the street from my apartment,” she said. “They moved all their stuff to this burned-out crack house next door. There was a line around the corner for 12 solid hours.

"It was hot, crowded, dirty and full of people with TB, but hey, the ED waiting room is pretty much the same, and it didn’t cost me a bus ride uptown. I hope they break down here again soon.”

The local IAFF President expressed skepticism that the plan would work, but seemed resigned to carrying it out.

“Honestly, at this point, our guys are just happy to go home alive at the end of their shift,” he said. “Anything else is gravy. We figure a building should offer more protection from gunfire than an ambulance, and some of these buildings even have toilets.”

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