A Hearing to Remind us that Services Cost Money

Joan Krajewski has decided to hold hearings and a 'probe' on why people are dying in Philadelphia because EMT response times are so slow:

Infuriated by the New Year's Day death of a woman who waited more than an hour for a Fire Department ambulance, City Councilwoman Joan Krajewski plans an investigation and public hearings on 911 response times in the city.

"What happened to that woman is a disgrace," Krajewski said yesterday. "These response times are just unheard of. It's absolutely terrible."

Deborah Payne called 911 at 2:33 a.m. Jan. 1, an hour when New Year revelers typically flood the city's emergency medical system with calls. She was having trouble breathing.

It took more than an hour for an ambulance to reach Payne, and after she was loaded into it, it failed to start. By the time a second ambulance arrived, 1 hour and 40 minutes after her call, Payne was dead.

I think I can save us all time and money here. People are dying because services cost money, and we are not spending enough on our paramedics. (There are some other things that would help, like the upcoming 3-1-1, etc). But, as the recent audit we all already paid for notes, we do not have enough EMTs, period.

I don't where Krajewski stands on the latest round of tax cuts- her record is mixed. But, again... things cost money, and money comes from taxes, and that is what living in a community means. So, maybe the economy will keep moving, and revenues will keep rising as we cut taxes. Or maybe Nutter can find five percent within each City Department to find some more money to dedicate to the problem. Or maybe we will decide we don't want certain services at all.

But the bottom line is that Councilwoman Krajewski will find one main conclusion when she holds these hearings: Services cost money. If as a city we want them, we are going to have to step up and pay for them.


I blogged this morning about how local TV news (CBS 3) actually added another wrinkle to the paramedic story with the idea that the residency requirements are making it difficult to find enough qualified folks to serve as paramedics. Let's see if this new toy works:

Dave Davies at the Daily News also did a good story about how some cities use private ambulance companies at times when the volume of calls is overwhelming - which seems to be a big part of the Deborah Payne story.

Whatever ends up happening with EMS and the budget trimming that's going to happen, it's clear that keeping people safe (police, fire, EMS) should be a top priority - no matter how it's accomplished.

Dan Pohlig rightly points

Dan Pohlig rightly points out that there are a couple of angles to this story.In particular as the Dave Davies story points out at the very least its ridiculous that the city does not have a mechanism in place to dispatch to private amublances in cases of dire emergencies or severe shortgages.

Lest I be accused of "obfuscation", I would point out that at least having such a dispatching system in place would be a boon in the event of severe emergency like a chemical leak or train derailment, regardless of how much we expanded the number of city EMS ambulances are on the street.

Beyond that these is the issue of a 311 system and how much a better system for handling non-emergency calls could speed up our emergency dispatching. Obviously in the shameful case of this New Year's Day late response the time delay went well beyond what improved efficiency a 311 system would bring. Only more ambulances wherever they came from would have made a difference in this particular case. But part of the problem does come from just from non-emergency call clogging 911 in terms of overall response

Lastly the cynic in me wonders if Krajewski herself had not abused the DROP program by taking the money, "retiring" for a day, and then claiming to be "rehired" by the voters making herself eligible again for yet more pension funds - how many more EMS man hours would that have bought? Can anybody quantify that?

So yes vital life saving services absolutely does cost money but so does greed and incompetence in government, so does a lack vision and planning for things like 311 and emergency dispatching to private ambulances.

MrLuigi, my cat, actually only types half as badly as I do.

Yes, sure. DROP is stupid

Yes, sure. DROP is stupid for elected officials, and should be ended. However, in the grand scheme of things, how much is it actually costing the budget for electeds to be in it? Like the pay raise, it is more a symbol of an out-of-touch move more than anything else.

And, while it is good to have private ambulances on call for NYE and other big days, we don't have enough ambulences just about every day. There was nothing special going on when Danny Rumph or Rotan Lee died, just an overtaxed, overstretched system.

So, the controllers audit, the CityPaper articles, etc., all point to this: there are improvements that need to be made in the system that may help, but the bottom line is that we need more resources devoted to the problem. Do you honestly think we are getting that from the end of DROP. Or, from cutting corruption and gaining efficiencies (that money has been spent on YPP about thirty different times)?

Ending DROP for elected

Ending DROP for elected officials would be a drop in the bucket for the scale of the massive financial problems the city faces - particularly if the souring economy turns the realty transfer tax that has been our goose that lays the golden egg as of late into an infertile dodo.

And no, I'm pretty sure the city could do well with some additional funding for EMS, as well as recent proposals looking at fire vs EMS spending have pointed out - that some strategic redeploying of fire resources to beef up EMS is and continues to be the trend for serving our city. I'm just pointing out that Krajewski is to a large extent grandstanding on this and that a smarter look at the whole issue would look at a system for dispatching private ambulances and the impact of 311 on improving response times for real emergencies as part of the mix.

Why don't we have dispatching to private ambulances in overburdened situations? Other cities have done this for decades.

Why don't we have 311? Not only would it make us safer but it gives the public a phone record for tracking the performance of city services and take it out of the twilight zone of "well they work sometimes - if the councilperson or some other 'important person' makes the call to the right person in the agency."

In terms of the bigger picture of the cost of corruption and incompetance in local government, the costs are huge. Its hard to calculate because people are so frustrated by dealing with this city, they all to often vote with their feet. How many residents, how many businesses have given up on this city and taken their tax dollars with them because of the Kafka-esque failings of some city agencies?

In my neighborhood neighbors have struggled for years to get L&I to look at a list of abandonned homes numbering over 100 for years - decades in many instances. Many are in a state of imminent collapse putting neighbors homes at risk, some even as they are in that pathetic shape get used as drug houses. With no progress.

Meanwhile a neighborhood church group starts a project to rehab several and turn a small cluster of them into moderate income housing that labors through bureaucratic hurdle after hurdle for more than 3 years. There is neighborhood fundraising and vollunteer days to clean up the shells.

And then suddenly over the holidays L&I gets one complaint expressing concern about one of the buildings and instead of issuing a warning of imminent demoliton a week before action as is the official policy, they demolish all the houses immediately - the first day. Frantic phone calls to L&I, to the district council office, to every city agency involved - the non-profit group doing the rehabs track down the folks at L&I who ordered the demolition as say "OK you took down the buildings - we can still save this situation and build from scratch - just don't fill in the foundations yet so we won't have to pay for excavating them again when we go to rebuild." Funds from the Housing Trust Fund for rebuilding are online to begin construction in less than a month.

Guess what happens the next day? You got it. L&I contractors fill in all basements.

Who pays for this boondoggle setting back a private non-profit building moderate income housing, breathing new life in a seriously bighted bock? You and I do, through city taxes. And who is responsible for the collosal waste of limited city resources, who is held accountable? Nobody knows. District councilperson says it wasn't them. L&I says they were just following standard procedure, though obviously they weren't #1 and #2 why here, why now when there are literally over 100 houses in 8 square block radius that they have failed to be as dilligent on?

Corruption, mismanagment, incompetance and failed communication rob funds from this city on a huge scale that I am afraid we have only begun to scratch the surface on. So no - its not enough to just say we need more funds and not talk about the rampant waste and mismanagement of funds we already have. The two go hand in hand.

BTW if you want more details about the case I am talking about with L&I's suddenly strangely overzealous demolition department check this.

MrLuigi, my cat, actually only types half as badly as I do.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Syndicate content