D.C. Council member John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2), emerging as the latest critic of the city's ambulance service, said yesterday that Fire Chief Theodore R. Coleman either should resign or relinquish control of the troubled emergency ambulance division.

Wilson, in a letter to Mayor Marion Barry, said the longstanding problems with the ambulance service "can be boiled down to one: lack of effective management and oversight on the part of the fire department."

In calling for Coleman's resignation, Wilson joins council members Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large) and Jim Nathanson (D-Ward 3), who have said Coleman should leave.

But council member Wilhelmina Rolark (D-Ward 8) -- who heads the Judiciary Committee, which oversees the fire department -- said she is opposed to the dismissal of Coleman and the removal of the ambulance service from Coleman's control.

Legislation to reorganize the ambulance unit has remained bottled up in her committee.

Rolark, in a letter to Barry, said "substantial improvements are being made" in the ambulance division, which has been criticized for slow response time and poor emergency dispatching.

She said yesterday in an interview that it was simplistic to call for the removal of Coleman. "The chief is one person," she said. "We are talking about a total system. I have confidence in the chief. I have confidence in the mayor."

Barry declined to comment yesterday on the letters from Wilson and Rolark. His spokesman, John C. White, said the mayor would issue a statement later.

Barry has been under increased pressure to get rid of Coleman. A week ago, the city's Committee on Emergency Medical Services, which advises Barry on the quality of emergency medical care, voted "no confidence" in Coleman's ability to manage the ambulance service. The committee is composed of high-ranking medical officials in the city.

Wilson's action, meanwhile, signals that momentum is building on the council to do something about the problem.

"My objective is to try to get the community, the mayor and the council to come to the conclusion we need serious changes or personnel changes," Wilson said in an interview. "I believe that it's the leadership. Let's get rid of the leadership . . . . I really want to solve the problem. It's a delicate situation."

In his letter to Barry, Wilson said, "If you are unwilling to make the necessary changes to remove the {ambulance service} from the fire department, then you must appoint a new fire chief. The District of Columbia desperately needs someone who can manage the entire department."

Council member Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6), saying she had not fully analyzed the ambulance problem, placed the blame on Barry. "You can't blame the chief," she said. "The mayor is the problem. If he has decided the chief must stay, he needs to straighten out the ambulance service. That is his responsibility."

Council member H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7), who introduced a bill last spring to put the ambulance service under control of the commissioner of public health, said he supports Coleman. "We were having problems long before he became chief," Crawford said.END NOTES