Butkovitz Finds EMS Units Still Arriving Late Nearly 40% of the Time

Audit Date: October 12, 2011
Audit Categories
  • Performance
Controller: Alan Butkovitz

Executive Summary

For Immediate Release:
October 12, 2011

Contact: Harvey Rice

Butkovitz Finds EMS Units Still Arriving Late
Nearly 40% of the Time
City Controller’s follow-up audit discovers inadequate number of paramedics
to handle overwhelming demand on EMS system

Click here to view audit

PHILADELPHIA – City Controller Alan Butkovitz today released a follow-up audit of the City’s Emergency Medical Services that found EMS units are still arriving late to emergency scenes nearly 40 percent of the time.

As indicated in the Controller’s 2007 performance audit of the Philadelphia Fire Department’s EMS system, it is a widely accepted standard for EMS units to arrive at the scene of an emergency in less than nine minutes at 90 percent of the time. Four years ago, EMS units were achieving this standard only 60 percent of the time.

Since the Controller released his 2007 audit, there has been some improvement in arriving within in the less than nine minute standard. However, the response time is still below the 90 percent industry bench mark and still below the 77.5 percent response time in 2002.

“The City is putting lives at risk by failing to do all that it can to have EMS units arrive on time,” said Butkovitz. “The response time is still well below the 90 percent industry benchmark.”

Butkovitz continued, “A major factor contributing to the EMS’s inability to arrive on time is the overwhelming demand on the EMS system along with an inadequate number of paramedics.”

EMS requests have increased 36 percent from 165,234 in 1999 to 224,485 in 2009. This is during the same time that the number of paramedics decreased by 28 percent, which consisted of a high of 291 positions in 2002 to a low of 211 in 2009.

“The City budgeted for 280 EMS positions in 2000 and it could only fill 211,” said Butkovitz. “With the number of requests for EMS responses increasing every year, the Fire Department must recruit more paramedics to keep up with the increasing demand.

“We again recommend that the City extend the residency waiver for paramedics to help recruitment. It should also consider providing educational scholarships to recruits willing to make multiple year commitments.”

Some of the other recommendations from the Controller’s follow-up audit include the following:
-educate public about using 311 system for non-emergencies so it alleviates burden on 911
-implement priority dispatch system, such as Tele-Nursing, to eliminate 50 percent of non-emergency calls coming into 911
-install traffic signal sensors to allow EMS units to quickly navigate through intersections
-utilize paramedic-engines that can supply both fire and paramedic equipment and cross-train fire fighters to be paramedics

“The Fire Department should take all necessary steps to improve its EMS response time and to increase the number of paramedics available to staff EMS vehicles,” said Butkovitz.

To view a copy of the City Controller’s follow-up audit entitled, “Emergency Medical Services – Implementation Status of December 2007 Recommendations”, please visit the Controller’s website at www.philadelphiacontroller.org