As a plane crashed into the Pentagon Sept. 11, the D.C. Fire Department sent all available ambulances to the scene, leaving the city void of emergency vehicles for other local calls. The fire department borrowed emergency response vehicles from Georgetown University’s Emergency Medical Response Service (GERMS) for extra support, but GW’s Emergency Medical Response Group (EMeRG) received no calls.
Rescue workers did not call GW’s program because it has no ambulances for campus or emergency city use. This is something former GW student Scooter Slade, the EMT Project Coordinator for the EMeRG Ambulance Project, wants to change.
EMeRG responds to calls and provides immediate basic life support services but cannot transport patients.
The University Police Department allocated about $54,000 yearly from its own budget to pay for an ambulance for EMeRG services three years ago, but D.C. Fire Chief Ronnie Few has not approved an ambulance for EMeRG.
Few did not return repeated calls for comment.
According to D.C. law, any agency that owns an ambulance must demonstrate the necessity of the vehicle and reach an agreement with D.C. emergency services to coordinate responses.
For the past to years Slade has lobbied City Council to approve an ambulance for GW.
Slade said he feels the response from D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services (FEMS) to the ambulance request has been “less than adequate.”
“We want to make our help available to the city . it’s clear they don’t want help, and they need it,” Slade said.
EMeRG completed the application for a certificate of need from a D.C. health project review committee in October 2000. The D.C. State Health Planning and Development Agency Project Review Committee postponed the certificate until EMeRG and FEMS jointly composed an agreement on how a GW ambulance would affect the EMT services dispatched by the fire department.
Slade said Few refuses to sign the agreement because EmeRG’s fast response time undermines the fire department services. He said FEMS has turned the ambulance issue into a “turf war” and is “offended (EMeRG) came before them” during an incident a few years ago.
If the University had an ambulance, Slade said GW would no longer need to spend $600 contracting a private ambulance at special events and the D.C. fire department would lighten its workload.
“In a true medical emergency, there is no such thing as too much help,” Slade said.