BOSTON (WHDH) - When seconds count during a medical emergency, residents around the city rely on Boston EMS to respond as soon as possible. However, there are big concerns about a staffing shortage.

The Boston City Council discussed the issue Tuesday with first responders.

“We’re supposed to get 150,000 more people, that’s the project growth in the city of Boston and so this hearing was to ask the question, ‘Are the city services that we’re providing good enough?’” said Gabriela Coletta, a Boston city councilor.

A troubling incident last May in Charlestown led in part to this hearing. A woman was suffering an apparent stroke, and her niece called 911 for help. Boston Fire got there in about three minutes to administer aid, but they had trouble securing an ambulance to respond.

“It was anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour before it got there,” said Kelli Gillen Forbes, who called 911 for her aunt. “I actually had my aunt’s son-in-law walk from the Garden, and he got there before there was any ambulance there to help her.”

There is an ambulance stationed at this nondescript garage in Charlestown, but it is often called out of the neighborhood. Officials said that’s what happened in May.

An EMT, who’s also a Boston EMS Union official, was among those testifying about this issue.

“These incidents pop up throughout the city several times a day,” said Nicholas Mutter, a Boston EMS EMT. “In a perfect world, I’d like to see double the amount of ambulances that we currently staff.”    

Median response times are ticking up, and Boston EMS said last year demand for services is up 60% over 2021. Meanwhile, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many medical professionals retired or changed jobs.

“I wouldn’t say we’re at a crisis point, yet,” Boston EMS Chief James Hooley said. He said they do not have enough people. “We could probably use about 50 people tomorrow.” 

A new class of 35 trained EMTs are about to hit the streets, Hooley said, which should alleviate the situation.

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