TRAA ambulances couldn’t respond to calls more than 800 times in the past year

TRAA has been unable to respond to over 800 calls
TRAA has been unable to respond to over 800 calls(WPTA)
Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 11:25 AM EST
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - When you call for an ambulance, you expect it to arrive in a timely manner. But serious problems with the city’s ambulance provider are calling into question that organization’s ability to effectively serve the community.

ABC21 filed a public records request with Three Rivers Ambulance Authority for every “level zero” occurrence over the last 365 days. “Level Zero” is the name given to a scenario in which an ambulance isn’t available to make a run for service.

The documents from TRAA reveal at total of 813 such occurrences from July 1, 2020 to July 31, 2021.

ABC21 has documented more in the weeks since.

In many of those cases, ambulances from other jurisdictions were called in to pick up the slack. In recent days, ambulances from New Haven and Hoagland were called in.

TRAA officials have repeatedly blamed a paramedic shortage for the issues. But have largely failed to mitigate the effects.

On Tuesday night, TRAA’s leaders were grilled by members of Fort Wayne City Council about the problems. Executive Director Gary Booher, Chief Operating Officer Michael Bureau and the head of the local EMS union, Ian Case, were the targets of sharp questions from city councilors Sharon Tucker and Russ Jehl.

“Could you make it through a day without their mutual aid?” asked Jehl. “Are we solely dependent on their [other agencies] good will to make sure that people in need are helped?

“It would appear that way,” Booher responded.

Jehl also called the executives out on the way they’ve handled the issue.

“You all are looking terrible,” Jehl said. “You are putting the needs and lives of people lower than your personal needs. It’s disgusting. It’s not okay.”

Leaders with Three Rivers Ambulance Authority (TRAA) are giving an update to the Fort Wayne City Council on the ongoing paramedics shortage.Data shows there’s been 813 “TRAA Level Zero” calls this year. That means there were no TRAA emergency units available.

— Karli VanCleave (@Karli_VanCleave) September 7, 2021

" I think at this point in time, every single one of us, three of you all, need to figure out how we can come to a consensus,” suggested Tucker. “There needs to be no win for you Mike, no win for you Ian, there needs to be a win for the community.”

What that win might look like remains unclear.

TRAA employees describe a culture in which their suggestions are ignored and their whistle blowing is discouraged. Former employees have described brutal working conditions.

“One of the biggest concerns people have with coming forward is retaliation,” said one employee who spoke to ABC21 but asked to remain anonymous out of fear for their job.

Council will likely call TRAA leaders back to the table to discuss what, if any progress has been made in the weeks ahead.

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