One-on-one with Detroit's new EMS chief

One-on-one with Detroit's new EMS chief

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(WJBK) -

"My first month in office I would like to see a turnaround at the hospital, be able to see an improvement in the amount of time the units have to spend to transfer patient care."

They are big goals but the new chief of Detroit's EMS, Sean Larkins, is ready to make them happen.

He's been on the job less than two weeks and is already making changes, starting with a morale boost. He wrote an open letter to his team his first day on the job.

"To let them know that I appreciate what they do; let them know them that deep down, regardless of this position, I am still a street medic, will always be one and that I will be out there with them. I will be out there on the rigs with them, in uniform and taking runs," he says. Larkins was hired as a street medic in Detroit in 1995.

Detroit has one of the busiest EMS systems in the country, about 300 runs every day and even more in the summer. For years, Detroiters have demanded better city services and faster responses. Today, Detroiters wait an average of 20 minutes for an EMS to show up, and during that wait - many have died.

The goal is to get response times down to eight minutes -- that's the national standard -- but the response time doesn't rest solely on EMS crews. Dispatchers, private partnership agreements and even union negotiations all play a role. Larkins says for the first time, all of these moving parts are finally starting to work together.

Now it's time for you at home to do your part by not relying on an ambulance for a sprained ankle or a free ride to the doctor.

"To hear on the radio that there is a life-threatening emergency around the corner and, had you not been tied up on a non-emergency run, you could have responded around the corner to a true emergency," Larkins says.

He is working to secure more ambulances scheduled to arrive this summer. Detroit just got 23 new rigs but the new fleet is already deteriorating.

"These 23 brand new rigs are taking a lot of abuse. These city streets are very hard on the suspension on these rigs; they're hard on the brakes. ... No other place are these rigs running around the clock like they do in Detroit. ... If your rig can survive the streets of Detroit, then your engineers got it right," he says.  

Sixty-eight vacancies also need to be filled. The city is holding a job fair Feb. 28 - March 1.  

Sean Larkins says he wants to fill all of those vacancies, start an EMS education program for kids and get response times down to an acceptable level within his first year.

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