Ambulance shortage in St. Louis causes concern | ‘It’s life or death’

The pandemic has impacted nearly every aspect of our lives and we're learning it's had an adverse affect on a service not everyone needs on a daily bases in St.
Updated: Aug. 13, 2021 at 12:55 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- The pandemic has impacted nearly every aspect of our lives and we’re learning it’s had an adverse affect on a service not everyone needs on a daily bases in St. Louis City, but could be an issue when that day comes. We’re talking about an ambulance shortage.

“It’s a serious issue. A serious issue. It’s like life or death,” Lanale Dupree said. Dupree is from St. Louis and says he’s heard of ambulance shortages in other cities across the country, but not this close to home. However, others tell News 4, they’re not surprised at all.

“I thought it was pretty bad, but it’s on par with St. Louis,” Jeffrey Wasser added.

Wasser and Dupree say they haven’t had to take an ambulance any time recently, and also say they’re now thankful for that knowing about the shortage. However, those running the trucks, say this is affecting them every day.

“There’s days like today where we do go NUA, no units available, everybody’s picking up patients and going to hospitals and that includes the privates,” St. Louis City Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson explained.

Chief Jenkerson says NUA days have become typical over the last year and a half. He says there’s a slew of things bringing challenges to his department and leaving them short ambulances.

“We’ve had quite a few breakdowns over the last few days because of the heat, the rage on the streets if you will has affected fire and EMS service. We’ve had quite a few trucks hit while responding,” Jenkerson said.

In the last five months, Jenkerson says at least three ambulances and some fire trucks have been hit by oncoming traffic drivers while they’re in route to accidents or emergencies. He says the reckless driving and lack of attention paid by drivers could put EMS, fire personnel and patients in harm.

“COVID is starting to trickle down and affect emergency services. Our parts, simple maintenance, we just can’t get it,” Jenkerson explained.

Just like it’s been a challenge to get car parts, and we’re seeing rising prices in automobiles, the same goes for ambulances. The chief says they have quite a few trucks in maintenance right now at their garage on Laclede. News 4 went over there Thursday and nearly every port is filled with an ambulance or law enforcement vehicle needing a fix.

In addition to these ongoing issues, Jenkerson also says they’re working with an extremely limited staff. Right now, they’re looking to hire 18 more paramedics. News 4 is told it’s now common for firefighters to run medical calls until an ambulance becomes available.

“A shortage of ambulances makes it that much more dangerous because if you get hurt in an accident or catch a stray, you have a limited amount of time to get that help,” Wasser said.

The chief says that short window of opportunity for assistance from his team is concerning as well.

“My biggest concern right now is being able to respond to the true traumas for people who really need us quickly and being able to transport them to the hospital,” Jenkerson continued.

The chief tells News 4 he’s asking the city for an additional eight ambulance units. On Thursday, he’s bringing his concerns and wants to an advisory committee which then is discussed by budgeting.