Detroit signs emergency contract to boost ambulance service this summer
The city of Detroit has made an “emergency procurement” to ensure it has enough ambulances for the next few months.
The city has contracted with Universal Macomb Ambulance Service to provide another 18 ambulances through the end of September, nearly doubling its current fleet. That move was announced in a June 21 city memo that described “an extraordinary deficiency in resources and capabilities” with current ambulance service.
“In the past month, there have been three (3) occasions in which no ambulance units were available during peak times,” the memo stated. “City ambulances currently have a utilization rate of 65%, well above the national average of approximately 40%.”
Detroit Fire Department Commissioner Charles Simms said a staffing shortage is the root of the current problem, as the department starts wrapping up a years-long effort to cross-train all firefighters as EMTs. Simms said DFD currently has about 250 fully-trained staffers; ideally, he would like closer to 500.
Simms said the emergency contract was necessary to protect residents’ health and welfare. “This was just a strategic move that we did, a proactive move, so come this summer we wouldn't have to worry about going times without transport units, or a delayed response,” he said.
The 18 additional contract ambulances will be “placed throughout the city in different areas,” Simms said. “But they're more than standby. They will actually be dispatched.”
The June memo noted that the city “intends to take long term corrective actions, including the increased hiring of those who can provide emergency medical services.” But it added that “a more immediate solution is necessary to ensure there are enough ambulance units available to provide critical services to residents,” particularly during the summer months.
Simms said DFD has more than 100 new EMT/firefighter recruits in the pipeline right now, and that all employees should be fully cross-trained by mid-2024. In the past, the union representing Detroit firefighters has complained that process is taking too long, and claimed that a drawn-out process, along with comparatively low pay, has driven people to leave DFD for other departments in recent years.
Simms acknowledged there have been some issues, but denied there’s a morale crisis in the department. “Anytime there's a change, you're going to have some members who are not completely happy with it,” he said. “But I think overall, it is a boost [to] morale across the entire department, because we are providing a higher level of care to the citizens of Detroit.”