By Gabriel Rom
City Ambulances are taking longer to respond to life-threatening medical emergencies and City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) is not happy about it.
At a City Council oversight hearing on response times last week, Crowley, chairwoman of the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee, went toe-to-toe with FDNY officials.
“Each and every year it is taking longer in life-threatening emergency situations for help to arrive,” Crowley said.
Despite an increased budget, it took ambulances an average of 9 minutes and 13 seconds in 2015 to get to life threatening medical emergencies — a jump of nine seconds from the average the year before, according to Crowley’s testimony.
“They are worse than they’ve ever been,” she said in reference to the response times. “You don’t have 10 minutes when you’re in cardiac arrest.”
During 90minutes of questioning, Crowley pushed FDNY EMS officials on why response times had increased.
“Is it fair to the people in Queens that they have to wait on average at least a minute longer than the people in Manhattan?” Crowley asked the panel, including Chief of Department James Leonard, Chief of EMS James Booth, Deputy Commissioner of Strategic Initiatives Edward Dolan and Chief Medical Director Dr. Glenn Asaeda.
Fire officials said they have faced record increases in the number of people calling for help. In 2015, the FDNY faced a 17 percent uptick in life-threatening incidents.
But Crowley and union leaders pointed to other potential problems that might be slowing down response times, such as poor WiFi connections. Loss of connectivity can leave EMTs stuck at hospitals struggling to upload critical information, she said.
Another point of contention was over GPS navigation systems.
Crowley pressed the officials on how many city ambulances were equipped with GPS devices, intimating that the longer times may be a result of poor directions.
Leonard admitted that not many ambulances were equipped with the systems, but maintained that the technology was unnecessary.
“We rely on our experience and people in neighborhoods,” said Leonard. But Crowley interrupted, saying “Most economy cars today have a GPS,” she said,. “You don’t have that.”
Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at grom@