Investigation reveals ‘dangerous’ Boston ambulance shortage
A review of Boston EMS found that responders are sometimes ordered to take multiple patients from separate calls to the hospital in the same ambulance
By EMS1 Staff
BOSTON — A recent investigation into an EMS agency found that it is plagued by ambulance and staffing shortages.
FOX25 Boston reviewed Boston EMS for four months and uncovered that delayed response times have been going on for years, with ambulances sometimes being completely unavailable to respond.
Resident Stephen Holt said he dialed 911 after his 2-year-old daughter began having seizures, and he was shocked by how long it took for the ambulance to arrive.
“It was absolutely terrifying. In total, we think she was seizing between 18 and 20 minutes,” Holt said. “Someone is going to die before an ambulance gets to them. That’s the way this ends unfortunately, unless changes are made.”
City records showed that Boston EMS has failed to meet their response time goal of six minutes or less for highly critical calls since 2013, and Chief James Hooley said rising call volumes are to blame.
“If you have 27 ambulances on the street during peak times, there’s always a possibility there’s going to be more calls coming in per hour,” Hooley said.
Hooley said ambulance availability is not tracked, but the investigation found that Boston EMS staff have been taking note of how often “zero availability” occurs, and off-duty staff keeps track of it on a Facebook page.
Investigators said at least six EMS providers said they have been ordered to pick up two patients from separate calls en route to the hospital.
“Why would you ever put more than one person in an ambulance?” Investigative Reporter Eric Rasmussen asked Chief Hooley.
“It’s about trying to be a little more efficient,” Chief Hooley said, adding that the occurrence is rare.
Records also showed that Boston EMS had to be assisted by private EMS agencies more than 100 times in a month due to low staffing. The city created 20 more positions in the past year, but has not been able to fill them.