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MISSING THE CALL: Should the public have known about the paramedic shortage sooner?

Updated: Oct. 6, 2021 at 4:24 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) - When did Three Rivers Ambulance Authority begin missing the call and should the public have known about the paramedic shortage sooner?

When you call 911, you expect them to get there fast.

Documents Fort Wayne’s NBC obtained from Three Rivers Ambulance Authority show, time-after-time, they were so short staffed they had to miss the call.

Between July 2020 and July 2021, dispatchers had to rely on other agencies to respond to emergency calls 813 times.

WPTA TRAA Level Zero Public Records RequestDownload

Who do we hold accountable?

For the answer to that question, Fort Wayne Councilman Russ Jehl says he first heard word of the paramedic shortage in Fort Wayne around April.

“I tried to work with TRAA, the contractor and the city administration,” Jehl said. “The administration said no, everything’s fine and refused to talk to me any further.”

MISSING THE CALL: Should the public have known about the paramedic shortage sooner?
MISSING THE CALL: Should the public have known about the paramedic shortage sooner?(Fort Wayne's NBC)

He says in June of 2021 county EMS leaders came to him with numbers that caused concern.

“I thought to myself, oh my goodness, the rumors are true,” Jehl said. “How is this being kept from the council and the public?”

Jehl says he called on the leaders with TRAA and Paramedics Logistics to sit before council.

“It was time for me to talk, otherwise I would be complicit in the matter,” Jehl said.

City ordinance says when someone needs help, TRAA will be there.

“TRAA management chose not to share anything with the public,” Jehl said. “It shows they failed their responsibility to the public.”

The TRAA board is appointed by the Mayor, County Commissioners and the medical community and their job is to oversee the contractor.

Fort Wayne’s NBC reached out to former TRAA executive director Gary Booher and leaders with Paramedics Logistics but haven’t heard back.

When TRAA leaders sat before council, they blamed the issue on a national paramedic shortage. Jehl says that’s part of the issue in Fort Wayne, but not all of it.

“Nobody wants to work for TRAA, so you can’t blame that on a national shortage,” Jehl said. “That was a failure in leadership.”

MISSING THE CALL: Should the public have known about the paramedic shortage sooner?
MISSING THE CALL: Should the public have known about the paramedic shortage sooner?(Fort Wayne's NBC)

Jehl says the focus now should be on stabilizing the system and he believes the new leadership can make that happen.

“The most important thing is to make sure that the board and the administrations and the council, along with the county commissioners, do everything we can to be as vigilant as possible,” he said.

Fort Wayne’s NBC will be talking to new TRAA executive director, Joel Benz.

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