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2 Investigators: Union Agreement Calls For More Ambulances, Paramedics

CHICAGO (CBS) -- More paramedics and more advanced life support ambulances—all as a result of a CBS2 investigation with the Better Government Association on the city's ambulance shortage.
It's all part of a tentative contract agreement reached between the city and the Chicago Firefighters Union.

It includes an 11 percent pay increase for firefighters over five years and a 25 percent increase in ambulances for the public this year.

As CBS 2 disclosed, people with life threatening injuries or illnesses have waited for as long as 35 minutes to get an ambulance to take them to the hospital because of an ambulance shortage in Chicago. State standards say it should be no more than a six minute wait.

Wednesday night, 36th Ward Alderman Nicholas Sposato, who last week moved to investigate the ambulance shortage says all that will change with the new agreement.

"It will help tremendously," Sposato said. "I mean you are increasing the ambulances out there to about 25 percent, so you went from 60 to 75."

Under the agreement, the city will hire about 200 additional paramedics by September 1 and convert 15 basic life support ambulances to advance life support status.

What's needs to be done to these ambulances to upgrade them to advance life support?

Sposato, who is also a fireman, said "The EKG needs to be put in there you need to put some drugs some medications in there. Basically it's about $50,000 to upgrade a BLS ambulance to ALS status."

About 50 of the additional paramedics will also make up for the $7.1 million in overtime the city paid last year to make up for its shortage of paramedics.

"This is a good first step," said Patrick Rehkamp of the Better Government Association. Hopefully it will cut down on response times but only time will tell if we have enough paramedics and ambulances on the street."

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