Use of private ambulances at Nationals games to continue for two - KMSP-TV

Use of private ambulances at Nationals games to continue for two more weeks

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The short term use of private ambulances to provide medical care at Nationals games will not be so short after all. D.C. fire officials were hoping to end the practice this week, but now acknowledge it will continue for two more weeks.

Last week’s heat wave had a crippling effect on the fire department’s aging fleet of ambulances. It was so bad that mechanics from three city agencies were working simultaneously in order to get the transports back in service.

Officials hoped to be on top of the problem this week, but now admit the city will need outside help at least into August.

When the Washington Nationals take the field at Nationals Park, D.C. Fire and EMS is there staffing first aid stations and ambulances ready to assist anyone with a medical emergency.

So when the city’s fleet of transports started losing their air conditioners last Friday and others began breaking down, officials knew they needed help and turned to a private ambulance service from Emporia, Va.

"Our teams are still in place,” said Dr. David Miramontes, the Medical Director for D.C. Fire and EMS. “The only issue that we had was that of the availability of transport units."

Dr. Miramontes says the level of care remains the same.

"Most definitely not a downgrade in care,” he said. “Our same response teams are present.”

With Lifestar ambulances providing a ride to the hospital.

On Tuesday on U Street in Northwest D.C., we attempted to ask Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe about the private ambulance plan.

“You can't tell me what's going on with the private ambulances and some other things going on with your department?” asked FOX 5’s Paul Wagner.

“I'm just coming back from vacation. I've been away,” said the chief.

“What's going on with the private ambulances?” Wagner asked.

“Don't you have an appointment scheduled with the Doctor [Miramontes]?” Ellerbe asked Wagner.

“Yeah, but why can't I ask you? You are the fire chief,” responded Wagner.

“Doctor is in charge of medical operations,” said Ellerbe.

“Yeah, but you are the fire chief,” said Wagner.

The firefighter’s union has been sounding the alarm for months now and predicted these breakdowns would come.

"You have the event now with the Nats’ stadium and not being able to provide units for special events,” said Ed Smith, President of the Firefighter’s Union. “You have the downgrades that have been cited in Councilmember [Tommy] Wells report that we need to hire and we need to replace apparatus. I don't know what it's going to take, I don't see the accountability. I don't see the accountability and the public should be up in arms.”

Fire officials say four transport units from Lifestar will be at Nationals Park Wednesday night and perhaps for the next "several weeks.”

The cost of this added service is unclear. Typically the Nationals reimburse the city for all EMS services, but officials were not prepared to say if Lifestar’s costs will be higher or about the same.

Calls and emails to Lifestar’s owners have not been returned.

Previous Coverage:

DC Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe declines to answer questions while fleet breaks down

DC ambulance shortage hits Nats Park

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