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New Orleans EMS faces staffing issues ahead of Mardi Gras

Published: Feb. 4, 2022 at 4:27 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A shocking carjacking at Costco shed light on New Orleans EMS response times, as thousands prepare to descend on the Big Easy for Carnival season.

A 45-year-old woman was fueling up her vehicle at its passenger-side gas tank when the suspect jumped into the driver’s seat, the NOPD said. The victim tried hanging on to the vehicle as the suspect started to drive off, but fell to the ground and was run over by the SUV’s back wheel as the thief sped away.

Dr. Aarti Pais ran over to the victim after she heard calls for a doctor. She quickly alerted first responders but didn’t think the wait would be as long as it was.

“We were just waiting there for EMS to arrive,” Pais said. “EMS came 20 minutes later. The cops came first, then the fire came, then EMS arrived.”

According to New Orleans EMS, they said they were on the scene of the carjacking five minutes after the call but officials said due to safety protocols, they can’t work a scene until NOPD gives the clear. Officers had to make sure it was safe for medics to work.

More: Husband pleads for violent crime solutions after wife’s brutal carjacking at Costco

That wait is nothing new to the city’s Emergency Services Department. COVID-19 outbreaks have sidelined crews since the start of the pandemic, and some have left their jobs for better opportunities.

With fewer medics available for shifts, patients are left waiting at the scene for first aid.

“Shorter response times means more people living. Long response times means more people dying, basically,” Dillard University Political Analyst Dr. Robert Collins said. “It’s putting the citizens of the city at risk, at greater risk.”

Dr. Collins says that danger could increase with New Orleans gearing up for a busy Carnival season.

“All of the first responder’s services are always stretched to the limit during Mardi Gras,” he said.

The challenges are harder to tackle without solid, consistent leadership. Dr. Emily Nichols resigned about three months ago, leaving Interim Director Dr. Meg Marino in her place to keep things afloat.

“It’s hard to judge a new director if you don’t give that person the tools to work with,” Collins said.

While COVID-19 cases are becoming more manageable following the Omicron surge, Collins says EMS needs to hire more manpower. But it’s a difficult task when the average pay is just over $37,000 according to salary.com.

“It’s considerably lower than the national average and regional average. You can’t aggressively recruit unless you pay people more money. There’s no way around that,” Collins said.

FOX 8 reached out to the New Orleans EMS for an interview but they could not meet our deadline. However, the agency did release its 2021 report, which shows 140 total personnel responded to more than 69,000 calls throughout the year.

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