911 Response Times Lengthen Amidst Budget Cuts and Reduced Ambulance Coverage


Since the onset of the pandemic, response times to 911 life-threatening emergency calls have experienced an uptick, escalating from 9 minutes and 22 seconds in fiscal year 2019, to 10 minutes and 17 seconds in fiscal year 2022, and further to 10 minutes and 43 seconds in fiscal year 2023.

The FDNY (Fire Department of New York) attributes part of this increase to a reduction in ambulances in service last year. This was a consequence of older vehicles being taken out of service after the subsiding of the COVID-19 outbreak, compounded by traffic congestion.

Officials from the Fire Department have also pointed out that the surge in dispatch and travel times can be linked to a seven percent rise in life-threatening medical emergency incidents.

New York's largest private hospital provider, Northwell Health, has implemented cuts in ambulance coverage, primarily affecting areas in eastern and central Queens. These reductions raise concerns about the FDNY EMS system's capacity to compensate for the loss, especially in light of Mayor Eric Adams' call for spending cuts of up to 5% next month, potentially escalating to 15% by spring.

The FDNY EMS ambulance service currently manages roughly 70% of 911 calls for patient transportation to medical facilities, with private hospitals responding to the remaining 30% of calls.

Oren Barzilay, president of the Local 2507, the union representing 4,100 of the city’s EMTs and paramedics, expressed apprehension that the budget cuts may jeopardize FDNY EMS's ability to cover the tours vacated by Northwell Health. He emphasized the critical nature of time in emergency responses and expressed concerns about potential overtime expenses due to staffing shortages.

Amidst the budget constraints, paramedics may also face the challenge of traveling longer distances to attend to tours relinquished by Northwell Health, further straining an already overwhelmed system.

Northwell Health's Center for Emergency Medical Services communicated the ambulance coverage reductions in a memo to staff, citing a continuous review of deployment strategies to meet the needs of the Health System and their patients.

FDNY had no immediate comment on the situation. However, the fire department's management report released on Friday revealed a 7% surge in life-threatening medical emergency calls, from 564,412 in fiscal year 2022 to 605,140 in the last fiscal year.