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News / Northwest

Man died in Portland waiting for an ambulance, highlighting lack of emergency responders

By Associated Press
Published: May 26, 2023, 5:10pm

PORTLAND — A man died while waiting over a half-hour for an ambulance after being struck by a hit-and-run driver last month, according to emergency dispatch logs, an incident that Portland firefighters say highlights their frustration at a lack of available ambulances to respond to emergency calls.

The Bureau of Emergency Communications 911 dispatch log was obtained by KGW-TV through a public records request. It revealed that American Medical Response, the private provider contracted by Multnomah County, was operating at level zero — a code meaning there are no ambulances available to respond to an emergency call.

“More and more, day after day, we’re seeing this level zero pop up, and as firefighters we’re getting frustrated,” Isaac McLennan, president of the Portland Fire Fighters’ Association, told KGW-TV. “This is a highly dangerous situation and it should be unacceptable not only just for firefighters, it should be unacceptable for everybody who lives in this community.”

Shortly after midnight on April 28, both firefighters and an ambulance crew were dispatched to the accident scene in northeast Portland. Police said it appeared the man, who has not been publicly identified, was attempting to cross the street in a wheelchair when he was hit.

The man was still alive when firefighters arrived, but 911 dispatchers repeatedly told them that American Medical Response was operating at level zero, according to dispatch logs. The firefighters worked to stabilize the man in the road while waiting for an ambulance.

The logs show the initial dispatch went out at 12:10 a.m. Firefighters arrived at 12:14, and an ambulance got there at 12:42. The ambulance left the scene five minutes later, as a hospital transport was no longer necessary because the man had died.

McLennan told KGW-TV there was no practical way firefighters could have taken the man to the hospital themselves as it was clear he needed an ambulance.

Global Medical Response, the parent company of American Medical Response, said in a statement to KGW-TV that the incident is still under review by the company as well as by county emergency officials.

“The safety of our patients is always our top priority. American Medical Response is committed to responding to all calls in a timely manner,” it said.

Official in Multnomah County, which is home to Portland, have said ambulances should arrive to 90% of emergency calls within eight minutes. However KGW-TV reported that during a five-month period ending in February, that mark was missed about a third of the time.