Louisville Metro EMS working to fix long response times, overtime issues

Louisville Metro EMS working to fix long response times, overtime issues

. - LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A WAVE 3 News investigation into Louisville Metro EMS reveals ambulance response times far slower than the national standard, millions of dollars spent on overtime and hundreds of incidents of no ambulances available to send.

New EMA leadership, however, is touting a fresh plan to fix all of it.

One of the first people to sound the alarm over response times and other EMS issues was Councilman James Peden.

"It's an absolute safety issue," Peden said.

He has served as a Metro councilman for 14 years but spent nearly double that as a local firefighter for Highview.

"I was a volunteer for all 26 years; I retired four years ago when (my)back went bad," Peden said.

Besides safety concerns, Peden said he feels taxpayers are being shorted.

"Are we getting our money's worth of the system and the service that's out there?" Peden asked. "To me that's an obvious no."

In a service where seconds matter, Louisville is minutes behind.

Records show comparable metro cities are far outperforming Louisville's ambulance response times.

In the last three years, Nashville has averaged 7:12 and Indianapolis averages 5:44. Louisville's times average 10:19.

The national standard is eight minutes.

The burden to fix it falls on Jody Meiman, who took over all Louisville Emergency services two months ago.

"I want it to be better," Meiman said. "I want us to progress closer to that eight-minute time."

Like Peden, Meiman has spent his life as a first responder in the area and credits slow responses to simply a lack of responders.

"We've lost about four and a half people on average in 2015 a month," Peden said. "We're really not where we need to be."

Now, the Metro has openings for 21 paramedics and 10 EMTs.

"They're out there," Peden said. "We're just not attracting them."

Peden and Meiman agreed the main reason for the staff shortage is low pay.

"It has a big impact because people are leaving to pursue higher-paying jobs," Meiman said.

Because of a lack of medics, the budget shows the city spends nearly $2 million a year to pay for overtime. That's more than it would cost to actually fill the open positions.

"That's one of my main goals is to be able to send the people home when they want to go home," Meiman said.

Possibly most shocking is records also revealed the lack of people means the Metro had periods of "no units available" more than 600 times in just the past two months, which is as long as they've been tracking the statistic.

EMS officials point out that while they track the times of no units available to send, they do not track if there was an actual call for an emergency during that period of time.

"I do believe that it goes back to retaining the people that we've got, to filling those vacancies and then in the future potentially putting more trucks on the street," Meiman said.

Added Peden: "Somebody somewhere has to turn it into a place where they say, 'that's an awesome job, I want it.'"

Meiman said they've been working on a plan to make that happen.

"We're going to get in touch with schools," Meiman said. "We're going to get in touch with colleges. We're going to get in touch with other EMS agencies, fire departments, you know anyone who wants to pursue some type of public service."

Peden said those who do stay are the ones who love the job.

"I think they're working really hard to make up the differences on what's going on," he said.

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