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CBS News: Brooklyn EMS workers say they can't keep up with growing 911 call rate

4 Mar 2024 7:24 AM | Matt Zavadsky (Administrator)

Another example of departments struggling with response volume and economics, leading to staffing issues.

This one at FDNY.

The most recent EMS News Tracker through February 2024 reveals over 1,800 local and national news stories related EMS, with 74.4% of them referencing the EMS staffing and economic issues.


Brooklyn EMS workers say they can't keep up with growing 911 call rate

By Hannah Kliger

February 29, 2024


NEW YORK -- While data shows Brooklyn has New York City's highest rate of 911 calls, EMS workers say they borough doesn't have enough resources to keep up.

Brooklyn also saw the largest increase in 911 calls since 2021.

Julianne Tien has been a paramedic with FDNY EMS for more than 15 years.

"Sometimes you absolutely can see that you've made a real difference in someone's life. There are certain jobs that are for me, really enjoyable, like when someone gives birth and we get to be there," said Tien.

Tien works at Station 57, which serves parts of Bushwick and Bed-Stuy. The department is stretched thin, she said.

"My ambulance personally that is designated for my unit, I haven't seen it in at least well over six months. I guess it went out for mechanical reasons and then it just never came back. So we're in a spare vehicle," said Tien.

Natasha Nembhard, a paramedic from EMS Station 58 in Canarsie, agreed with Tien after being on the job for eight years.

"I can't remember it ever being this bad," Nembhard said . "Job after job, we're not getting any breaks because of the call volume."

Data compiled by the EMS union backs up their experiences.

In Brooklyn, life-threatening emergencies have increased by 15.7% since 2021. It's the highest increase in the city and in a borough already with the most calls.

Oren Barzilay, president of FDNY EMS Local 2507, said the EMS budget hasn't increased, even though the work has.

"I think the people at the Office of Management and Budget and the FDNY budget crunchers are to be held accountable to this. We've constantly been asking them for additional resources," Barzilay said.

The union for EMS workers said the rise in 911 calls could be linked to Brooklyn's growing population.

New York City's data shows ambulance response times between 2021 and 2023 increased by more than one minute, while the number of ambulances on the road dropped by 11%.

That combination can be the difference between life or death in a medical emergency, Barzilay said.

"We are budgeted to handle about 4,200 calls a day. And there are days where we are doing 4,500, 46, sometimes we touch 5,000 calls a day," he says.

An FDNY spokesperson responded with a statement, saying, "Emergency calls to the 911 system have been increasing for the last several years. We had seen a spike in EMS activity in and around the pandemic, which we used additional resources for. We have returned to pre-pandemic level ambulance numbers and manage our available resources in order to respond to New Yorkers who need us."

The EMS agency has a high turnover rate.

"Give us more money, give us a reason to stay, give people a reason to want to join EMS and then we'll fill those spots," Nembhard said .

Employees said raises can help recruit and retain qualified workers.

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