Preview of Thursday's special hearing on readiness of DC Fire an - KMSP-TV

Preview of Thursday's special hearing on readiness of DC Fire and EMS

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WASHINGTON -

D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells is likely to get an earful from all sides Thursday morning when he holds a special hearing on the readiness of D.C. Fire and EMS.

It is a hearing that could prove to be one of the more emotional and intense the city council's judiciary committee has held in years.

A string of embarrassing ambulance delays forced Wells to schedule the hearing, which will now also address an eye opening inspector general’s report on the actual size and condition of the department’s fleet of vehicles.

Union members from the fire department and police are prepared to point fingers in a growing controversy over how to best deliver emergency medical services in the city.

The fire chief will be there to tell his side as well as a man now caught in the middle who just wants the best EMS the city can deliver.

Marcus Rosenbaum was devastated seven years ago when his brother David was robbed and assaulted on Gramercy Street in Northwest D.C.

He died two days later after receiving medical care the inspector general called an "unacceptable chain of failure."

The Rosenbaums wanted answers and filed a lawsuit, which eventually lead to a task force and six recommendations on how to improve EMS.

In an interview Wednesday, Marcus Rosenbaum said until recently, he had been satisfied with the changes.

"I'm pleased with the progress that's been made since my brother was killed,” he said. “I think EMS is a much more serious part of the fire department now. For the most part, I think things have improved a lot. But I have the feeling that over the last short time, things are backsliding some and that really worries me.”

Rosenbaum says the department has not kept up with oversight of some of the promises it made to improve and he finds the recent revelations on the shabby state of the fleet and its questionable reserves troubling.

And that's not all.

"The New Year’s Eve sickout was just the kind of thing that really, really caused me to stress because it was bad attitude that really led EMS to screw up with my brother.”

Marcus Rosenbaum is on the list to testify, as well as the son of the man who died on New Year's Eve waiting for an ambulance that eventually came from Prince George's County.

In the last two weeks, the D.C. fire department has admitted the numbers it turned over to the D.C. Council on the size of the fleet were false and the inspector general was conducting an investigation of its staffing.

On Monday, firefighters voted "no confidence" in the chief -- the first in twelve years.

The delivery of first-rate EMS has been an ongoing issue as evidenced by a 2010 letter sent to Chief Kenneth Ellerbe by outgoing Fire Chief Dennis Rubin. In it, Rubin says: "Unfortunately, the continued opposition of organized labor and the intervention -- however well intended -- by only a few misinformed stakeholders, residents and even medical professionals, has brought into question our success at improving the EMS system.”

The hearing is scheduled to get underway at 11:30 a.m. with Chief Ellerbe listed as the final witness.


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