The CityPaper paints a rather grim picture of 911-call handling in Philadelphia
, from ambulance numbers half those of similar cities, to understaffed call centers, with the result that people with acute health crises can sometimes wait half an hour for an ambulance to wend its way through the city to pick them up.
Tom O'Drain, president of the Fire Fighters Union Local 22, said he routinely gets calls from firefighters who waited 20 to 30 minutes for ambulances to arrive on the scenes of medical emergencies. Two firemen interviewed for this story told of waiting more than 20 minutes for ambulances to arrive at cardiac-arrest calls. (A new study by the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota finds that cardiac arrest victims are either saved or lost in six minutes.) Some firefighters have coined a phrase for situations where they stand over a dying person awaiting an ambulance. They call it "The Circle of Death."
Clearly we need for firemen to have broader emergency-assistance training, but it's clear that the general emergency infrastructure has been overwhelmed by the increase in demand, and more resources are needed on all fronts. Meantime, this should be a good incentive for everybody to learn CPR!