City Desk

Unions: D.C.’s Broken Ambulances Too Hot to Handle

This week, the District has been besieged by relentless heat. It’s uncomfortable, perhaps even more so, for those on the verge of death. When that's the case, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, firefighters, and registered nurses think D.C. ambulances shouldn't be a very uncomfortable 107 degrees. In a statement released today, union leaders for those groups are urging Mayor Vince Gray to fix some of the District's broken emergency transports:

"Last week, seven of the city’s Fire and Emergency Medical Service Department 25 basic life support ambulances—or 28 percent—were out of service. Many ambulances suffered from dysfunctional air-conditioning systems. One ambulance without a working air-conditioner was ordered back in service by a deputy chief even though a Department of Health inspector ordered it off the road after finding the patients’ compartment was 107 degrees. Another ambulance had a makeshift box fan to try to cool the patient compartment when its air-conditioner did not work."

The labor groups that signed the letter—National Nurses United, the DC Nurses Association, and the D.C. Fire Fighters Association Local 36—say they're bringing up the hobbled transports because the city is ub  its "second heat wave of the summer" weather season and “it is simply unacceptable for patients in need of emergency care to either not have an ambulance to transport them when needed or to have to be transported in an ambulance without a functioning air-conditioner."

We've reached out to the mayor's office for a comment. In the meantime, try not to get sick in the heat—a stifling and stuffy ride to the hospital may make it worse.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • drez

    How many of the 7 out of service vehicles are out of service because of broken A/C? The article doesn't say, instead focusing on the 1 where someone, under some conditions, measured a temperature of 107.
    More details, please.

  • MIKE

    All units in the city that where placed out of service all had none working A/C units in the patient compartment. If it was not working in the drivers compartment then the unit would have sstayed in service. They(ambulance) have on board digital temperature read outs.
    104-106 degrees was a couple other read outs

  • DCFD

    Let's all get real for a second...First of all, we (firefighters) are forced against our will to work for 3 months on ambulance duty. We (as a union) decided that once it was inevitable that we would be FORCED to ride the ambulance as a condition of employment, that we wanted to keep our schedule (24hrs on/72 hrs off).

    OK, so we do that, knowing that we will be running calls that are placed to an incompetent 911 system (this is well known in the fire service...the dispatchers are not uniformed personnel, and make mistakes that send units on medical calls with 30 minute response times, but are not subject to disciplinary action...) We run calls for people that want their socks put on, want a ride to a hospital that happens to be where they have a doctor's appointment, or a ride to the hospital to get a prescription. YES, THAT IS WHAT PEOPLE CALL 911 IN DC FOR ON A REGULAR BASIS, AND THAT IS WHAT WE ARE RUNNING DOWN THE STREET LIGHTS AND SIREN FOR, 90% OF THE TIME. When you see us, and hold your hands to your ears, KNOW a couple of things; we are most likely running lights and siren to a call like the ones mentioned above, we are working in a system that is completely overwhelmed and overworked, and the ambulances that we are driving not only have patient compartments that are over 90 degrees, but WE are driving with NO AIR CONDITIONING either, and are told to "suck it up." Do us all a favor, write your city councilman. Tell them that you want quality emergency medical service, provided by PARAMEDICS. PARAMEDICS have gone to school for a few years, and have your best medical interest at heart. The rest of us are just firefighters, forced to ride the ambulance for 3 months at a time, in conditions that some people wouldn't subject their pets to. DEMAND FIREFIGHTER/PARAMEDICS on EVERY AMBULANCE, and DEMAND quality working conditions for them. Thanks! DC Firefighters.

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  • Typical DC BS

    @DCFD: Is there anywhere that the public can get a list of the calls that come in for ambulance service and what the call actually is about once they ambulance gets there? I can't believe we don't charge the morons who call because they want help with their socks or just need a ride. With the fiscal crisis we are in, wasteful calls from morons unclear what is an "emergency" should be fined (or maybe the dispatchers are being told some lie about the situation is in order to get the ambulance crew there?).

  • seDCdude

    All Chief Rubin's doing and serves you right DCFD!!

    Incompetence seems to be the DC way; from a retarded, biased child support system, an MPD department mixed with former poor and highly uneducated staff and overzealous VETS, to a shackled, ABUSED and neglected educational system to CHURCHES on every other block all the way to what seems to be a liquor store for every traffic light!

    While the world turns and passes us by, DC is stuck in an infested PETRI DISH of stupidity, fake azz professionalism, GENTRIFICATION, thievery and DUMBED DOWN political correctness fueled BY the lacking of common sense....I'm just saying!!!!!!