Report slams SFFD ambulances for persistent slow response times

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ByVic Lee KGO logo
Thursday, July 16, 2015
Report: SFFD ambulances still too slow
A new report by the civil grand jury says the San Francisco Fire Department ambulances are not getting to emergency medical calls fast enough.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The San Francisco Fire Department is being criticized once again for slow ambulance response times. A scathing San Francisco Civil Grand Jury report says the ambulances just aren't getting to those who need help quickly enough and the SFFD chief is taking a lot of heat on this one.

The report says the SFFD has no strategic planning and that technology is "simply absent or outdated" in the firehouses. But the most serious criticism is directed at the ambulances.

San Francisco Supervisors president London Breed says she's asked SFFD Chief Joanne Hayes-White for some answers.

"Unfortunately, I still have not gotten information that indicates that there are any major changes that are going to happen to the department," said Breed.

Last summer, a statue at Fisherman's Wharf toppled onto a toddler. Police and firefighters came immediately, but it took a SFFD ambulance 13 minutes to arrive, exceeding the department's goal of a 10-minute response time. Two-year-old Kayson Shelton later died at the hospital. Since then, Hayes-White has made improvements.

"Specifically, bringing in new ambulances and training new paramedics. So I feel like she's working on solutions," San Francisco Supervisor Norman Yee said.

But the Civil Grand Jury believes ambulances are not responding to emergencies fast enough and often enough. The report adds there is "a chronic lack of serviceable ambulances." And that they're spaced in different parts of the city which San Francisco Civil Grand Jury Foreperson Janice Pettey says affects the response time.

"For example, people who live the western part of San Francisco may have longer waits for ambulances than people who live say in the downtown part of San Francisco," Pettey told ABC7 News.

The report also criticizes the SFFD for its failure to find a new home for its training center, which is now at Treasure Island. The department has been told it has to vacate the facility.

The fire department says it is reviewing the report and will respond within 60 days.