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D.C. man fights ambulance fee after father's death

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Local,DC,Prince Georges County,April Burbank

A man whose father died after waiting at least 30 minutes for a D.C. ambulance is pressing the District to address a series of delays in its ambulance service.

Durand Ford Jr.'s 71-year-old father went into cardiac arrest on New Year's Eve, and D.C. did not have any units immediately available to help him. Ford said an ambulance from Prince George's County came 30 to 40 minutes after the family's 911 call.

He has gathered more than 170,000 online signatures asking the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department to waive what he called a "very inappropriate" $780 ambulance fee for a service that came too late to save his father.

"Things that are legitimate charges should be paid, and things that are illegitimate should not be paid," Ford said Wednesday.

The fire department did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday. Its website says it has charged fees for ambulance service for more than 30 years, which are based on the level of support that patients need in addition to a fee for every mile traveled to the hospital.

Ford, who said his father's case was part of a "systemic problem" with D.C.'s emergency services, will deliver his petition Thursday at a special D.C. Council hearing amid widespread concerns about ambulance response times in the District.

Earlier this month, a stroke victim had to be transported to a hospital on a fire engine because there was no ambulance available, just days after a D.C. police officer was struck by a car and waited about 20 minutes until a Prince George's County ambulance arrived.

"For it to happen to another first responder, a police officer, was heartbreaking," Ford said. "When you can't muster units for an officer down, that means there's a very serious problem."

Edward Smith, president of the firefighters union, said the group supports Ford's petition as part of its desire to see the fire department increase staffing, resources and training.

"The population here in D.C. is increasing, and the Fire and EMS Department is not growing to meet the demand. We're actually regressing," Smith said.

The hearing Thursday will look into the overall capacity of the fire department while investigating the circumstances of each incident.

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