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San Diego EMS providers: Staff shortage causing long response times

AMR employees said they have seen ambulances unstaffed in several neighborhoods, which is impacting 911 response times

By EMS1 Staff

SAN DIEGO — EMS providers are voicing their concerns about longer response times that they say are caused by a lack of employees and unstaffed ambulances.

NBC San Diego reported that anonymous AMR EMS providers provided staffing rosters and 911 response times. They said they have seen unstaffed ambulances across the city, sometimes for days in a row.

According to the EMS providers, the city’s ambulance fleet consists of “station units,” which are designated to certain stations, and “float units,” which are unassigned and go to areas that are receiving a larger call volume at the time.

The EMS providers said they’ve seen station units unstaffed for sometimes several days, making them unavailable to respond to calls and leaving all of the work to the “float units.”

According to the EMS providers, the station units closest to a fatal fire in October were unable to respond because the crew was on a “recovery delay,” which is shown in the dispatch records.

“Three victims were pulled out of the fire,” San Diego Fire Battalion Chief Alan Arrollado told reporters that night. “At the time they left the scene, they were basically in critical condition.”

Dispatch logs show that ambulance response to the fire was not on par with the required time limit for life-threatening calls.

“It’s shocking how close or how often the ambulance level gets to ‘level zero’ or close to ‘level zero.’ What this means is there are no ambulances left in the city,” EMT Joseph Ross told the city’s Public Safety Committee.

Officials with both AMR and the San Diego Fire Department said they don’t track “level zero” incidents, but EMS providers said they get an alert on their pagers every time it happens, and now “negative levels” are occurring, which means there are no available ambulances and 911 calls already waiting for response.

AMR has attributed the staffing shortage to a nationwide issue.

“Our operations team works with our fire department to deploy units and staff as needed to cover areas based on the changing volume each day,” AMR public affairs manager Madeleine Baudoin said in a statement. “AMR caregivers respond to approximately 390 EMS calls per day, providing exceptional service to the citizens of San Diego.”

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