D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray put on an elaborate news conference Tuesday to tout improvements in the city's troubled Fire and EMS Department, but the announcement of 30 new ambulances did not quiet some suggestions that D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe could lose his job. News4's Tom Sherwood reports on some of the changes ahead for the department.
The District of Columbia Fire and EMS department is bolstering its depleted ranks with new ambulances and nine new paramedics.
The department has struggled to provide timely emergency care. Dozens of paramedics have resigned in the past two years, and some ambulances have fallen into disrepair. The Associated Press reported that the department is trying to make do with less than half the paramedics employed by departments that respond to similar numbers of medical calls.
D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray were on hand for the announcement Tuesday.
"Today marks what I think, and many think, is a turning point for the department," Ellerbe said. "We're no longer at a tipping point. We're now in a position to turn the corner."
The nine new hires will be "single-role'' paramedics, meaning they will ride on ambulances but not on fire engines, which are usually the first vehicles to respond to emergencies. Department officials have said many trained paramedics don't want to fight fires.
Union members told News4 they were skeptical of the changes.
"I see it as a dog and pony show for what should have been done the entire time. Buying apparatus and hiring people should be a part of every day business," Capt. Ed Smith told News4. "If they would have heeded our calls in 2011, this wouldn't have happened."
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