Northwell Health, New York’s largest private hospital, has announced a reduction in ambulance service in certain parts of the city. This decision comes as Mayor Eric Adams calls for spending cuts of up to 15% starting next month. Concerns are growing about the FDNY’s ability to compensate for the reduced ambulance coverage and maintain efficient emergency response times. The FDNY is already experiencing delays in 911 response times, as stated in a recent Mayor’s Management Report. Northwell Health will be cutting back on coverage in eastern and central Queens, following a previous reduction of ambulance tours on Staten Island. Union officials have been briefed on the cuts, which include eliminating advanced life support on overnight and overnight ambulance tours in specific areas of Queens.
Northwell Health hospitals along the Queens-Nassau border, including Long Island Jewish Hospital in Forest Hills, Cohen’s Children’s Medical Center, and Long Island Jewish Hospital in New Hyde Park, have been affected by the reduction in ambulance service. The FDNY currently responds to approximately 70% of 911 calls, while private hospitals like Northwell Health respond to 30% of calls. FDNY EMS has agreed to cover the tour previously conducted by Northwell Health, but concerns have been raised regarding the potential impact of budget cuts on this coverage. Dr. Eric Barzilai expressed concern that the budget cuts could jeopardize the provision of emergency services, emphasizing the importance of every second when it comes to life and death situations. Barzilai also mentioned that the FDNY might have to pay overtime to cover the Queens tour due to staff shortages. Mayor Adams has ordered a crackdown on overtime spending for all uniformed services, including the FDNY.
Since the pandemic, response times to life-threatening 911 emergency calls have increased. In 2019, the response time was 9 minutes and 22 seconds, which rose to 10 minutes and 17 seconds in 2022, and further increased to 10 minutes and 43 seconds in 2023. William Farrington Virgil expressed concerns that emergency personnel may have to travel long distances to pick up tours dropped by Northwell Health, further overwhelming the system. In a memo to staff, the Northwell Health Emergency Medical Services Center announced the reduction in ambulance coverage, stating that it aims to ensure the needs of the health system, partnerships, and patients are met. Northwell Health spokesperson Barbara Osborn confirmed the ambulance cuts and stressed that the decision was made after a thorough review of ambulance utilization and deployment within the FDNY EMS system, in coordination with FDNY EMS leadership.
FDNY has not provided an immediate comment on the matter. However, the fire department’s Mayor’s Management Report revealed a 7% increase in life-threatening medical emergencies, with the number rising from 564,412 in fiscal year 2022 to 605,140 in the last fiscal year. The increase in dispatch and travel times can be attributed to several factors, including a decrease in the number of ambulances due to older vehicles being phased out after the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as traffic congestion. Overall, the reduction in ambulance coverage by Northwell Health raises concerns about the ability to provide timely and effective emergency medical services in New York City.