Posts Tagged EMS response times in Chicago

Chicago Fire Department news

Excerpts from

Last summer, the Chicago Fire Department hailed the addition of five new ambulances as a step to cutting chronically slow response times to emergency calls. According to an analysis of eight months of Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) data the fleet was up to 80 ambulances.

A comparison of ambulance response times for the four months before the new ambulances were added to the same four months after the addition revealed that the average response times improved just four seconds– from seven minutes, 22 seconds to seven minutes, 18 seconds. The state standard is six minutes.

Response times were supposed to be helped when the University of Chicago opened its trauma center last spring because ambulances wouldn’t have to travel as far for critical runs, but the data shows only an incremental improvement.

Further analysis showed most ambulances go on 10 runs in a 24-hour period, but the busiest ambulances can have up to 18 runs a day.

At the current fleet level of 80 ambulances, Chicago ranks last in number of ambulances per one thousand people when compared to other big cities. If Chicago added 20 more ambulances the rate jumps to 3.7 per 1,000 people — meeting national norms. A recent industry report said the Chicago Fire Department needs to bring its fleet up to 100 ambulances.

In 2015, the Chicago Inspector General issued a report criticizing the fire department for not properly tracking response times.

The fire department said the data analyzed from the OEMC is unreliable, as well as data used by the inspector general. The department also questions data used by the paramedics union calling for more ambulances. The fire department claims they will be issuing their own report on response times in the next couple of months and said it is now manually reviewing data to identify discrepancies, technical issues, or operating errors. Until that is done, it cannot verify the accuracy of response time data.

Here is the entire statement provided by the Chicago Fire Department:

“Ensuring Chicago has the highest quality emergency medical services and rapid ambulance response times is our top priority. Following last summer’s expansion of the department’s ambulance fleet, CFD announced it would conduct a comprehensive analysis on the impact of the five new ambulances to ensure it meets the needs of Chicago.

To ensure the accuracy of this intensive study, CFD is reviewing data manually to determine any discrepancies, technical issues, or operating errors; the department estimates it will need no less than 45 days to complete this review. While the department’s analysis is underway, we cannot verify the accuracy of raw data and information that has not undergone a comprehensive review by the Chicago Fire Department.”

thanks Martin

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The Inspector Generals Report on Chicago Fire Department Response Times (more)

Excerpts from

Chicago’s inspector general says the Chicago Fire Department is still not meeting nationwide standards for response time, despite being chided a year-and-a-half ago.

It was in 2013 when Chicago’s Inspector General Joe Ferguson concluded that the fire department was not meeting national standards, [saying] the city was using a statistically flawed method for calculating response times and because of the way [the department kept]  records, some of those records were missing.

Now the Inspector General has released a follow-up, saying basically that the fire department has done nothing to meet national standards. To view the report, click here.

thanks Dan

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CBS and BGA take issue with CFD EMS response times

The Chicago Sun-Times has an article about the BGA investigating ambulance response times in Chicago:

The Chicago Fire Department is a city agency the Better Government Association watches closely, and with good reason — emergency work saves lives when it’s done well, and imperils them when it’s not.

Our latest investigation of the CFD, which looked at lengthy ambulance response times, appears to be a prime example of the latter, and it cries out for immediate attention from the Emanuel administration before there’s a tragedy that could be prevented.

The BGA and CBS2 reported recently that, in January, a two-ton postal truck hit a woman right outside City Hall. It took 16 minutes for an ambulance to arrive — that’s 10 minutes longer than the state mandate of 6 minutes — even though the downtown area has several fire stations. Thankfully, the woman survived her serious injuries, including broken bones, but the next person who has to wait 16 minutes for an ambulance might not be so “lucky.”

Last fall, the city’s inspector general took exception to CFD claims it was meeting response-time standards.

And our investigation revealed the department doesn’t even track ambulance response times in a meaningful way, so it’s hard to determine whether the situation is getting better or worse. Paramedics tell us there’s a shortage of fully equipped Advanced Life Support — or ALS — ambulances, and that travel times are getting longer, which means slower responses.

But fire officials can’t validate or refute this since they don’t track response times month-to-month or year-to-year. So they’re resorting to double-talk. Here, in essence, is what they’re saying: They have enough ambulances, but might be getting more; they have enough paramedics, but plan to hire more; response times aren’t bad, but they have no real way of tracking them.

That’s hardly professional or reassuring, and it’s not the only problem we’ve uncovered at the CFD. Past investigations revealed a former fire commissioner’s dubious pension “sweetener,” the breakdown of an ambulance that was transporting a gunshot victim, paramedics taking a stabbing victim to the wrong hospital, and fire department vehicles carrying expired medications.

That’s why we’re suggesting the mayor’s top staffers sit down with fire officials to straighten things out, beginning with two life-and-death questions: Are there enough ALS ambulances on the street, and do they respond to calls quickly enough? The answer to both questions appears to be “no.”

So one solution may be to convert some or all of the “basic life support” ambulances that handle relatively minor injuries to ALS vehicles that handle trauma cases. That could add 15 trauma-ready ambulances to an operating fleet of about 60. Paramedics seem to like the idea, and the department is willing to consider it, which is encouraging.

Another idea worth exploring is a redistribution of equipment and resources. As the city’s population shifts, and the number of fire fatalities continues to drop — 2013 was an all-time low — maybe it’s time for fewer fire trucks and engines, and more ambulances.

Finally, it’s 2014. The department should be able to track ambulance dispatch and response times in a way that allows them, and watchdogs like the BGA, to analyze data. Other big fire departments do this, so why not a “world-class city” like Chicago?

thanks Dan

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