Ambulance response times will be audited

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - It's taking ambulances longer to arrive at the scene of an emergency.

That's partly because Kansas City has been trying out a new dispatch system for 9-1-1 ambulance calls.

The city's goal is to respond to 90 percent of calls within nine minutes or less.

But recently there's been a dramatic drop.

City officials say now ambulances arrive within nine minutes on only 76 percent of emergency calls.

For the past couple of months, dispatchers have been asking callers more questions.

It's an attempt to narrow down what kind of response is needed, but it's slowing down arrival times.

KCMO City Manager Troy Schulte said the city needs to answer a big question: "Do we need to have two fire trucks and an ambulance respond to relatively minor incidents? So that's the balance of quick versus efficient."

City Councilman John Sharp says officials thought the new dispatch method would lengthen response times by about 30 seconds.

But that time has now jumped by a minute and ten seconds.

"I think it has dramatically impacted response times," Sharp said at Wednesday's meeting of the council's public safety committee.

Another issue is a spike in attrition as employees leave the city's ambulance crews for other jobs.

"We may be having some fatigue," said Schulte.

Sixteen paramedics have quit since last fall. The city manager wants to know if it's because of an improving economy or lower morale.

Schulte says a new task force will study whether to change the new dispatch method, as well as whether ambulance crews should stop working 24-hour shifts.

And he's ordered a city audit to look at those ambulance response numbers.

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