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Nine New Paramedics Start Work As D.C. Struggles To Address Shortages

Nine newly-hired paramedics will begin work with D.C. Fire and EMS today. The paramedics were hired in an effort to address a shortage that has led to slow responses in some medical emergencies.

This is the second time in recent months that the D.C. fire department has hired single-purpose paramedics to address an ongoing shortage in the city. In recent months, the department has come under scrutiny for responding slowly or not having paramedics available to treat patients, including a D.C. police officer who was injured on the job.

Still, the new hires still won't change the number of paramedics on the street at any given time. D.C. still deploys less than half the paramedics used by urban departments with similar call volumes.

They also won't relieve the stress on the dual-role firefighter-paramedics who are usually the first responders to medical emergencies. The new paramedics are not trained as firefighters and can only ride on ambulances, though they will be given the option of training to work on fire trucks.

But Paul Quander, the city's deputy mayor for public safety, says they are filling what he called an "immediate need."

On top of addressing the shortage of paramedics, the D.C. fire department has also struggled with an aging fleet of fire trucks and ambulances. A report commissioned by the city and released last week concluded that the city's 369 vehicles are in  overall poor condition.

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