WASHINGTON (AP) — Three District of Columbia fire department ambulances could have transported a seriously injured police officer who had to wait 15 minutes for an ambulance from Prince George’s County, Md., city officials said in a report that placed the blame for the delay on individual employees.

The three ambulances were improperly listed as out of service when the officer was struck on the evening of March 5, according to the report issued Thursday by Paul Quander, the district’s deputy mayor for public safety. All were within 4 miles of the scene.

The officer was on a motor scooter when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver and faces a long recovery, police have said.

The response to the injured officer has fueled debate about whether the fire department has adequate resources to handle the call volume in the growing city. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe is trying to get approval to deploy more emergency medical technicians during the day when the department is busiest.

But Quander said Thursday that human error was more at fault in the case of the injured officer.

“This is an instance that is more about individuals not doing their jobs, rather than a systemic failure,” Quander said.

The city has 39 ambulances in service at a given time. When the officer was struck, 30 were handling other calls and six were out of service for legitimate reasons, the report found. The other three could have helped the officer if the firefighters, paramedics and EMTs on board had followed protocols, the report said.

Seven employees — including two on each ambulance and a supervisor at the city’s Office of Unified Communications — are being disciplined for their actions. Safeguards have been implemented to prevent similar incidents, according to the report.

Ed Smith, president of the city firefighters’ union, said better equipment would have prevented the problem, noting that four ambulances were out of service for mechanical issues. He also said the report was unfair because Quander did not interview the employees who are being disciplined.

“The fleet is in trouble,” Smith said. “We don’t have the right tools to do the job.”

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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