Northwell Health slashes ambulance coverage, raising concerns about NYC emergency response

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New York’s largest private hospital provider is cutting ambulance coverage in parts of the city — raising concern about the ability of the FDNY EMS system to pick up the slack amid Mayor Eric Adams’ demand for 5% spending cuts next month and up to 15% by spring.

The FDNY is already grappling with slower 911 emergency response times, according to the newly released mayor’s management report.

Northwell Health, effective Sunday, is reducing coverage in eastern and central Queens, The Post has learned. It cut ambulance tours on Staten Island earlier this year.

The cuts include elimination of advanced life support on night/overnight ambulance tours in Douglaston, Little Neck, Bayside, Forest Hills and Rego Park, according to a union official briefed on the reduction.

Northwell Health hospitals in Queens and along the Nassau border include Long Island Jewish in Forest Hills, and Cohen’s Children’s Medical Center and Long Island Jewish, both in New Hyde Park.

The city’s FDNY EMS ambulance service handles about 70% of 911 calls for transporting patients to medical facilities while private hospitals respond to 30% of the calls, said Oren Barzilay, president of the Local 2507, the union representing 4,100 of the city’s EMTs and paramedics.


Northwelll Health ambulances
The FDNY is already grappling with slower 911 emergency response times, according to the newly released mayor’s management report.

Barzilay said FDNY EMS had agreed to cover the tours abandoned by Northwell Health, but is worried that may be in jeopardy due to Adams’ order that the Fire Department and all other agencies slash their budgets to address a projected multi-billion dollar gap exacerbated by the migrant crisis. 

“The budget cuts are a problem. Our ambulance crews were supposed to take over Northwell Health’s units,” Barzilay said, adding: Every second counts and can be a difference between life and death. Minutes count here.”

He claimed the FDNY would have to pay overtime to cover the Queens tours because of a lack of staff.

Adams ordered a crackdown on OT spending for all uniformed services including FDNY as well as the police, corrections and sanitation departments.


Northwelll Health ambulances
Response times to 911 life threatening emergency calls has climbed since the pandemic — from 9 minutes and 22 seconds in fiscal year 2019, to 10 minutes and 17 seconds in fiscal year 2022, and 10 minutes, 43 seconds in fiscal year 2023.
William Farrington

Barzilay also said paramedics may have to travel longer distances to pick up the tours dropped by Northwell Health.

“It impacts our positions,” he said. “Our system is already overwhelmed.” 

Northwell Health’s Center for Emergency Medical Services announced the cuts in ambulance coverage in a memo to staff.

“We continually monitor our ambulance deployment strategies to assure we are meeting the needs of the Health System, our partnerships and our patients,” the memo stated.

Northwell Health spokeswoman Barbara Osborn confirmed the ambulance cutbacks, some of which went into effect Sunday.

“After a thorough review of our ambulance utilization and deployment within the FDNY EMS system a decision was made to modify a small contingent of our units. This change enables us to enhance the effectiveness of our participation in the NYC 911 system along with continuing to be one of the largest providers of EMS services to the City of New York,” Osborn said.  

“This change is in conjunction with FDNY EMS leadership.” 

FDNY had no immediate comment.

But the fire department reported a  7% uptick in life-threatening medical emergency calls in the mayor’s management report released Friday, jumping from 564,412 in fiscal year 2022 to 605,140 last fiscal year.  

Response times to 911 life threatening emergency calls has climbed since the pandemic — from 9 minutes and 22 seconds in fiscal year 2019, to 10 minutes and 17 seconds in fiscal year 2022, and 10 minutes, 43 seconds in fiscal year 2023.

The FDNY attributed part of the increase to fewer ambulances in service last year, after older vehicles were taken out of service after the COVID-19 outbreak subsided — and to traffic congestion.

Fire Department officials added “increases in dispatch and travel time can (also) be attributed to a seven percent increase in life-threatening medical emergency incidents.”

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