Philly Medic Shortage Causes Lapse in 911 Response

Imagine calling 911 for a medical emergency only to find out that no one can help you. The Philadelphia Firefighters Union says that this is a scenario that happens all too often.

A Department wide fire communications advisory went out Monday around 8:40 p.m. stating that there were “no medic units available for calls in the city.”

“This happens three or four times each week,” said Firefighters Union President Bill Gault. “On Holidays and storm days it gets worse.”

Gault claims the city and fire department administrators aren’t giving firefighters the money they need.

“The system is overwhelmed and we don’t have the resources,” he said.

Gault says a shortage of paramedics and equipment is causing emergency responses that would normally take eight minutes to be more than double that amount of time.

“It can be anywhere from 10 to 25 to 30 minutes,” said Gault.

Philadelphia Fire Department Commissioner Lloyd Ayers told NBC10’s Harry Hairston that budget problems are to blame for the paramedic and equipment shortage. Ayers also acknowledged that there were no medic units available for a full hour on Monday and that there were about 60 calls for medics during that time. The Commissioner also says that there were 141 days last year in which no medic units were available to respond to emergency calls.

While Ayers believes the shortage could cause a dangerous situation, he also insists that 80% of all 911 calls are not life threatening. Gault says however that he doesn’t want to gamble with anyone’s life.

“How long could a person hold their breath?” asked Gault.

The Fire Department is looking to improve service and plans to add more medic units, according to Commissioner Ayers.

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