A man who was stabbed inside an apartment building Monday evening in Southeast Washington waited nearly 30 minutes for an ambulance to take him to a hospital, according to D.C. fire department officials.
The department was overwhelmed by emergency calls at the time, with all 42 ambulances and paramedic units on other calls, according to Timothy J. Wilson, a department spokesman. The victim survived.
Wilson said the first ambulance to become available was leaving MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, about eight miles from the site of the stabbing in the 5100 block of F Street SE in Marshall Heights.
The ambulance arrived at 7:16 p.m., 28 minutes after the first 911 call at 6:48 p.m. Wilson said the victim had been receiving prompt treatment; a fire engine with a firefighter trained as an advanced paramedic arrived at 6:55 p.m.
Still, Wilson said, a 28-minute wait for an ambulance is exceptionally long. The ideal response time is less than eight minutes. WJLA-TV first reported the delay, quoting residents who said it took the ambulance more than 40 minutes to arrive.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services has long been concerned about a surge in calls that authorities say coincides with an influx of people moving into the District. There were 20,000 more 911 calls in 2014 than there were in 2013, more than 80 percent of them medical in nature, which Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said last week is “putting strains on our emergency response infrastructure.”
A new fire chief, Gregory Dean, was named last week and is due to start in May. The 64-year-old is a retired veteran of the Seattle Fire Department. He is regarded as an innovator in providing advanced medical care and merging the traditional roles of firefighters and paramedics to address the dwindling number of fire calls and the increase in medical emergencies. The District also is experiencing a shortage of paramedics, who provide advanced medical care.
Monday’s ambulance delay is the latest in a series of similar incidents that has plagued the District’s fire department for two years. The agency had come to be defined by the January 2014 mishandling of the Medric Cecil Mills Jr. case. The 77-year-old man collapsed across the street from a fire station and was refused help from the firefighters inside.
On New Year’s Day 2013, a 71-year-old man died of a heart attack after waiting more than 30 minutes for an ambulance on a day when one-third of the firefighters on duty had called in sick. In March 2013, a D.C. police officer who was struck by a car and suffered a broken leg waited 15 minutes for an ambulance; authorities later found that three ambulances were improperly out of service. There have been several instances when firefighters transported victims in trucks because ambulances were delayed.