Cleveland EMS staff shortage hits new level

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CLEVELAND (WJW) — The FOX 8 I-Team has found the city of Cleveland running so short on ambulances, the number of units answering your calls Saturday dropped by about a third below what had been scheduled.

While we’ve exposed EMS staffing as a chronic problem, it hit a new extreme over the weekend.


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We’ve confirmed, on Saturday, 8 Cleveland ambulances ended up out of service due to short staffing. Again, that is about a third below what the city plans on each day to handle your emergency calls.

For years now, we’ve revealed staffing issues with EMS in dispatch and on ambulances. But, what happened days ago is more than we’ve seen at one time before.

In an e-mail statement, city hall said, “The Division of EMS experienced brown-outs of 7 units due to staffing issues, another unit was shut during the shift due to personnel leaving due to illnesses.”

The statement also said, “I assure you that there is no lack in service resulting in lives being in jeopardy.  Increased staffing will assist in the reduction of brown-outs.”

And, “In addition, the division is working to fill the staffing shortages in an effort to return to full staffing levels.  A cadet class of eight paramedics will be completing the classroom training next week and begin their field ride times.  We expect them all to be staffing the ambulances before the end of this month.”

When ambulances are taken out of service, the city says other EMS units get moved around to keep the city covered.


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Yet, reviewing the units out of service on Saturday, we saw ambulances based all over town shut down.

At a recent council hearing, EMS claimed to be at full staffing 98% of the time, and, top safety leaders said overall response times have dropped.

But, now, Councilman Mike Polensek says, he’s not so sure about some of those claims.

Polensek said on Monday, “I’ve always had the philosophy, whether it be good news or bad news, give us the straight news at the table.”

He added, he, now, is asking more questions. Polensek also said, “I’m in the process of trying to get information myself.”

This comes to light just after exclusive video released to the I-Team. It shows the scene after an undercover agent shot a suspect. And, you see officers taking the wounded man to the hospital in a patrol car.

That happened the same day a highway patrol dispatcher ended up on hold waiting to talk to someone at Cleveland 9-1-1 as she tried to call for an ambulance. Not a new problem, but new video and new questions are creating new urgency to fix it.

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