Portland Fire Chief implores Multnomah County to fix ‘unacceptable’ paramedic shortage

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – As Multnomah County and American Medical Response continue their deliberations over how to adapt to an ongoing shortage of paramedics in the area, Portland’s interim fire chief has chosen to intervene.

Chief Ryan Gillespie wrote a letter to the county’s medical director and health operations manager imploring local officials to address AMR’s response times – which currently get to patients within eight minutes, 60% of the time.

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In the letter, first reported by The Oregonian, Gillespie urges Multnomah County to change its two-paramedic requirement to a one-paramedic-one-EMT requirement, adding that the current “status of ambulance service in the City of Portland is unacceptable and is putting lives at risk.”

For months, AMR in Multnomah County has frequently hit Level Zero, meaning there are next to no ambulances available to get to 911 calls. And with paramedics and ambulances in short supply, the county recently allowed firefighters to take on non-standard transports.

Earlier this month, Portland Fire and Rescue shared stories with KOIN 6 about harrowing rescues in recent months – from helping an injured toddler hurt in a serious fall to a man who was having a stroke. In both cases, they had to improvise how they transported the patient to the hospital without available ambulances.

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More recently, Gillespie said one of his firefighters was injured in North Portland during a residential fire call on Jan. 19. When they called for help, “there were no ambulances available to transport them to the hospital.”

“Again, we improvised and put their life, and the lives of our other firefighters providing care, in danger as we did our best to secure them in the back of a fire apparatus to get them to the higher level of care they needed,” his letter read. “The shortage of ambulances is putting the community’s lives in jeopardy and it is also putting our firefighter’s lives in danger.”

Stay with KOIN 6 as this story develops.

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