In response to reports of FDNY EMS workers responding to more than 7,000 calls every day during the COVID-19 pandemic, Councilman Robert Holden and Local 2507 president Oren Barzilay are calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to allocate 100,000 N95 masks to EMS workers per week.
In a letter to the mayor, Holden pointed out that a shortage of N95 masks led the city to issue new guidance to EMS workers on when they should and should not use the masks.
According to the union, its members were even threatened with the loss of a vacation day if they did not follow this new guidance.
“It is absolutely disgraceful to threaten our EMS workers with docked vacation days, especially at a time when they are working overtime to cover for sick colleagues,” Holden said. “These brave city employees are often the first people to come in contact with a patient with coronavirus, and their professional judgement on when to wear a mask should be trusted. This city should be doing everything possible to find more N95 masks for EMS professionals, not limiting how much they use the masks. It’s no wonder why these selfless workers feel so underpaid and underappreciated by City Hall.”
In the letter to the mayor, Holden and Barzilay note that out of 4,000 members of the union, 50 have tested positive for the coronavirus, and at least another 400 are experiencing symptoms. Barzilay added that the FDNY EMS and Fire Inspectors’ lives are not expendable.
“It’s shameful that we had to come to this point,” Barzilay said. “The city needs to provide these men and women the right equipment so they can continue doing their job, not just today, but every day.”
A spokeswoman for the mayor said the administration is aware of the equipment shortage and it is looking for solutions.
“Our EMS workers are heroes, and we are equipping them with the best we can in the face of a national mask shortage,” Laura Feyer said. “We need the federal government to step up and respond to our request to immediately produce millions more masks, so we can ensure our healthcare workers have enough to last this entire crisis.”
Meanwhile, the city and FEMA announced a partnership that will bring 250 more ambulances and nearly 500 more EMTs and paramedics to New York City. These resources will help the city increase capacity for medical transports between medical sites and assist the FDNY with responding to a record number of calls.
“Our EMTs and paramedics are doing unbelievable work under the toughest of circumstances,” de Blasio said. “This week, I promised them help was on the way and today it is. Our partnership with FEMA will give our first responders the help they need to continue being the heroes of our city.”
These ambulances come fully staffed by paramedics and EMTs from around the country.
“Our EMTs and paramedics are facing an unprecedented number of medical calls each day. There has never been a busier time in the history of EMS in New York City,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. “We are very grateful for this assistance from FEMA that will make an immediate impact to the 911 system and greatly assist our men and women on the front lines of this pandemic.”