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LAFD plan to add ambulances not even a 'Band-Aid,' councilman says

A Los Angeles Fire Department plan to put six ambulances back in service to help improve lagging response times amounts to less than a "Band-Aid" fix to the agency's needs, a City Council member says.

April 17, 2012|By Robert J. Lopez, Los Angeles Times
  • LAFD engineer Ron Tomacruz in 2009 holds traffic in front of Station 39 in Van Nuys to allow a firetruck to back into a station.
LAFD engineer Ron Tomacruz in 2009 holds traffic in front of Station 39 in… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

A Los Angeles Fire Department plan to put six ambulances back in service to help improve lagging response times amounts to less than a "Band-Aid" fix to the agency's needs, a City Council member said.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called for the ambulances to be restored to service last month after fire officials acknowledged that the time it takes rescuers to get to victims in medical emergencies had fallen below nationally accepted standards.

Assistant Fire Chief David Yamahata on Monday told the council's Budget and Finance Committee that the six ambulances would begin operating Sunday. But the units would be in service only 12 hours a day and would not be staffed with paramedics, he said.

Councilman Mitchell Englander responded that firefighters have told him the additional ambulances might not have any effect in improving response time.

"This is not even a Band-Aid fix," Englander said. "It's barely that, from what I've heard from firefighters."

In recent weeks, fire officials were forced to acknowledge that they had been publishing reports showing that rescuers reached medical emergencies faster than they actually did. The disclosures and controversy prompted Villaraigosa to call for the six ambulances to help restore public confidence in the beleaguered agency.

In an interview after the council hearing, Yamahata acknowledged that the six ambulances would not have a major effect. Firefighters respond to tens of thousands of medical emergencies each month.

"We would like to restore all our resources," Yamahata said.

The department's budget has been cut by more than 15% over the last three years.

Yamahata said the department examined many factors in deciding where to put the six ambulances. They will go into service in Little Tokyo, Hollywood, Canoga Park, Sun Valley, Van Nuys and the Sawtelle neighborhood.

robert.lopez@latimes.com

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