RICHMOND, Va (WRIC) — Delayed ambulance service calls in Richmond could be set back even more if the city council does not grant the Richmond Ambulance Authority (RAA) $3.5 million more than what Mayor Stoney proposed, according to the RAA CEO.
The ambulance authority met with several members of city council, and the city’s administrative officer – Lincoln Saunders – for a budget work session, after the agency sent a letter pleading for increased funding amid a staffing shortage.
“I need to be at the overdose otherwise somebody’s going to die. I need to be at the shooting,” said Chip Decker Tuesday; RAA’s CEO.
The funding request comes ten months after a pregnant woman reportedly waited one hour for an ambulance to arrive after she was injured in a Southside car crash; a Good Samaritan stopped to care for the woman, and captured the ordeal on camera.
“I know, grab my hand baby. Slow breaths ok,” the woman said to the pregnant woman who was lying on the pavement with city fire and police officials nearby.
Decker said staffing is part of the problem, a trend he said was reflected nationwide. RAA staff claims the agency needs more money to retain employees with competitive salaries, and to hire more. In addition, the agency needs to continue to cover the cost for people who can’t afford a ride to the hospital.
“Literally, the subsidy [from the city] that we currently enjoy is the subsidy that we had 13 years ago,” Decker said.
RAA was established in 1991 after city officials suspected ambulance companies were cherry-picking calls based on who they expected could pay for transportation. The RAA became the sole operator for ambulance services in the city thereafter.
Saunders questioned RAA’s billing and collection rates that were presented Tuesday, noting his numbers are different.
However, Councilwoman Reva Trammell, who represents the district where the pregnant woman waited so long for an ambulance, wants the city to act fast; faster than an extensive review would likely allow for.
“Councilmembers need to find the money so that you can keep doing your job,” Trammell said.
Council President Cynthia Newbille requested several questions from the mayor’s office to be answered from RAA by Friday. Why so soon? Newbille noted council is supposed to vote on a final budget by the end of May.