Detroit EMS looks ahead with optimism, new leader

Sydney Zack
Sydney Zack

DETROIT – A parking lot full of old Detroit EMS ambulances serves as a reminder of when so few rigs were on the street just a year and 1/2 ago.

Back then, response time was a life-threatening national embarrassment. Medic moral was bad. Equipment problems were bad. A newly-installed head of EMS quit after only weeks on the job.

Flash-forward to Friday: a new class graduated with a new woman in charge.

"You are coming to Detroit EMS in a new era," she said to the graduates.

She's Deputy Commissioner Sydney Zack, and union sources say they are working well with her. There were once eight ambulances on the road, but now there are 38 ambulances and six sport utility vehicles. Response time is down from 22 minutes to less than 11 minutes.

Commissioner Zack said the city's bankruptcy and new administration put an emphasis back on Detroit EMS.

"What we're seeing is a commitment to the citizens, and so part of that commitment is part of public safety. We want to recognize EMS now and make sure they have the resources they need," said Zack.

There is also the personal side. The job is tough. Zack is a single mother with a legal background. She can negotiate and knows when to be tough.

"This is a very difficult job and so emotionally sometimes they need that extra support," she said. "They need that extra pat on the back."

About the Author: