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Detroit contracts with private ambulance service as FFs cross-train for EMS

Macomb Universal Ambulance Services will provide up to 18 ambulances over 4 months to manage the summer call volume and avoid FF burnout


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By Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

DETROIT — Detroit is contracting with an outside ambulance service provider to put more ambulances on its street as the fire department cross-trains its firefighters in emergency medical services and works to avoid burnout.

The department has entered into a four-month emergency contract with Macomb Universal Ambulance Services to increase from seven ambulances to 18 ambulances on Detroit streets. The $500,000 contract begins this week and runs through September, covering what are traditionally the busiest months of the year for 911 calls, said Executive Fire Commissioner Chuck Simms.

The contract supplements the 22 ambulances DFD puts on the road each day with its own staff, giving Detroit up to 40 ambulances on the street on a daily basis this summer.

“This will be the largest number of ambulances on the street serving Detroiters that we have seen in decades,” Simms stated in a press release. “We expect this to be a short-term transitional measure. We currently have a class of 40 cadets that will graduate next month. In July, the next academy will start and we expect an additional 70-100 new cadets joining the department by the end of the year.”

The contract with Macomb Universal comes as the Detroit Fire Department is in the midst of adopting a nationwide model in which employees are dual-trained in fire and emergency medical services. But training demands of full-time EMS staff and firefighters have reduced the number of EMS staff on the street during the transition, officials said Monday.

The combined number of DFD and private ambulances responding to 911 calls will grow from approximately 30 to 40 as a result of the $500,000 contract, Simms said. The union-supported effort was initiated to prevent employee burnout. Simms said that at the end of the four-month contract, the need for continued outside support will be re-evaluated.

“The men and women of Detroit EMS are the hardest working group in America”, Simms said. “Currently, Detroit EMS rigs have a utilization rate of 65-70%, which is far above the national average of 40%. The additional 11 ambulances will ease the heavy workload for our own EMTs and Paramedics to provide better service for the residents of Detroit.”

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