San Francisco Firefighters Unable to Meet Growing Number of Service Calls: Audit

By Jean Elle
|  Monday, Jul 14, 2014  |  Updated 11:34 PM PDT
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San Francisco emergency crews are dealing with delayed response times sparked by staffing shortages coupled with a growing number of calls for service. Jean Elle reports.

San Francisco emergency crews are dealing with delayed response times sparked by staffing shortages coupled with a growing number of calls for service. Jean Elle reports.

San Francisco firefighters are dealing with delayed response times sparked by staffing shortages coupled with a growing number of calls for service.

A recent performance audit of the San Francisco Fire Department shows population growth in the city over the last seven years is driving up the number of calls, which officials said will take time and money to properly staff the department in order to meet the increased demand.

"The increase in population and an increase in call volume of about by 20 percent -- that's gone up," said Mindy Talmage, San Francisco Fire Department spokeswoman.  "Our staffing has gone down. We are ramping that back up, but it's a process."

Firefighters said the outcome has created a dangerous delay.

"There's only so much we can do in the field and a person needs ambulance for transport," said Shon Buford of San Francisco Firefighters Local 798. "That's what we're concerned about. Patients need critical transport and it's not there."

Firefighters said the goal is to have a patient on the road within 10 minutes.

But patients like 2-year-old Kayson Shelten, who later died, waited longer. Firefighters said it took an ambulance 13 minutes to arrive.

The firefighters union said delays are becoming frequent and blame aging ambulances and staffing shortages as the cause for slow response times.

Authorities point to 19 new ambulances rolling out this month and 16 academy graduates coming in August as resources coming to help ease the crunch. But the union said it's not enough.

"The 16 people will put a bandaid on the situation," Buford said. "But as run volume increases and population increases, it's not going to change the situation."

City officials said a working group is being formed to evaluate and find a solution to the staffing shortages and response times.

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