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Fort Wayne councilman calls for immediate attention to delays in ambulance service response times

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - City Councilman Russ Jehl plans to argue that ambulance service response times are below par, and should be addressed immediately.

Statistics we just obtained suggest delays in getting ambulances to calls for help in the city of Fort Wayne have become a consistent problem since last summer and that response times are getting worse.

By contract, ambulances are supposed to arrive on scene to deal with calls for emergency aid within specific designated response times 90% of the time.

From August 2020 through May 2021, compliance was achieved one time in 10 months, and in the month of May this year, it dropped down to 76%.

We're told ambulance provider PatientCare EMS is struggling with several factors that are contributing to a shortage of paramedics. That includes a reduction of hours during the pandemic that may have prompted some staff to look for work elsewhere.

Then factor in big increases in mandatory overtime for remaining employees to cover. That's causing some of them to quit in frustration. 

The Three Rivers Ambulance Authority has declared an emergency and for a period of one year, they will go to a two-tiered system that will direct advanced life support units on life-threatening runs and basic life support units to non-life-threatening calls to make things better.

Jehl says that's a good first step but he suggests some American Rescue Plan Act or ARPA funds might be used by Mayor Tom Henry's administration to help give the ambulance provider the ability to hire more staff and address the response time problem.

"It is important to bring all of our resources to bear as quickly as possible and so that needs to be flushed out because literally every week paramedics are leaving in search of better compensation. The only thing I am asking from the administration is to take aggressive leadership to bring all the parties together and address all the potential solutions," Jehl said.

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry's administration says it already has helped facilitate meetings in recent weeks to search for solutions.

In a statement, Henry's office emphasized: "We're not  aware of any patient care shortcomings as a result of manpower challenges experienced by TRAA."

The statement goes on to say, "The city's future use of ARPA funds is in the process of being put together and additional information on ARPA will be forthcoming in the weeks and months ahead."

Councilman Jehl says he will bring up the ambulance response time issue at council Tuesday night.

He would like support to formally invite stakeholders to council to discuss solutions publicly.

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