Some new Detroit EMS rigs still not on the road - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Some new Detroit EMS rigs still not on the road

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DETROIT (WJBK) - Last year, nearly two dozen newly-donated EMS rigs were rolled out with the intention of reviving a department that struggled with outdated equipment and dangerous response times.

But all of the department's problems aren't over.

"It's gotten better but it's far from perfect," says the relatively new chief of Detroit EMS, Sean Larkins. He'll tell you response times in Detroit have gotten a lot better, but Fox 2 has learned the city is dealing with a different problem.

The Penske donation of 23 new ambulances last year helped a lot. The issue now is a lack of EMS workers to staff them.

On average, sources tell Fox 2's Taryn Asher five ambulances are closed, unused because there are not enough EMS crews to run them.

A screen grab from Detroit dispatch shows three rigs were down Friday and five were closed on Saturday. You can see for yourself, EPER means unit closed for lack of personnel.

Although the city claims the number is a bit lower than that, these are perfectly good trucks shut down.

"There are some days where we actually do have a shortage of staff and we try to solve that by calling in people on overtime," Larkins says.

Asher then asks him, "How big of a problem is that, though?"

He responds, "It depends on which day it is, which day of the week it is. Depends on how nice the weather is. It can be hard to staff the units on overtime, especially when our technicians are working so hard every day."

Sources tell Asher the city is budgeted for 300 EMS workers but right now there are only a little more than 200.

Many workers were not happy with 10 percent pay cuts and working conditions so they left, and with the starting wages Detroit can't hire them or train them fast enough.

Several have graduated from the academy but it takes months to get them certified to run the rigs.

Something the city is now working to fast track. What use to take up to three months will now take, Asher is told, three weeks to get the new-trained crews on in the rigs and on the streets.

"I'm hoping by July that we can have them ready and available on the trucks. There are a lot of things that we're working on especially with recruitment, not only recruitment but retention, trying to keep people here. Make sure that they're happy here with Detroit Fire department, with EMS," says Larkins.

LINK: One-on-one with Detroit's new EMS Chief

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