WILLIAMSBURG — City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said she had to call Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly to hasten a slow emergency response to a teenage intern who collapsed at a Tuesday morning press conference in the searing heat.
The intern, identified by a Councilwoman Diana Reyna staffer as Yvette Toro, collapsed from heat stroke at approximately 11:45 a.m. during the conclusion of a 30-minute outdoor press conference where Quinn challenged opponents of the controversial Upper East Side waste transfer station, witnesses and officials said.
Panicked onlookers and Quinn staffers called 911, but there was no immediate response.
That's when Quinn decided to call the city's top cop.
"I didn't really wait. I just said, 'I need an ambulance,'" Quinn said. "He said, 'Where are you?' and I told him where I was."
An EMT trained officer on Quinn's security detail, Detective John Madden, tended to Toro while they waited 30 minutes in the 94 degree weather for medical crews to respond, Quinn said.
As they waited, Quinn and her staff frantically called officials to hasten response time before finally getting through to Kelly, Quinn said.
A Hatzolah ambulance eventually transported Toro, who was alert, and her boss to Woodhull Hospital, officials said.
The speaker said later that city officials said the call had come in at a midlevel priority, but was bumped up to the urgent category after repeated calls from the speaker and other council member's offices.
Quinn gave an update on the woman's condition from her campaign Twitter account shortly after 3 p.m., writing: "Great news! The young woman who fainted this afternoon at our press conference is now home and resting. Everything looks A-OK!"
During a City Hall briefing later, Quinn said she had met with Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway, Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano, and other officials at approximately 3 p.m. to discuss the incident.
The city officials told Quinn the delay was caused by a lack of available ambulances due to a spike in heatwave-related calls. According to Quinn, the city officials said the normal call volume is upwards of 3,500 calls per day. On Monday, the number reportedly spiked to 4,000.
"Based on what I was just briefed on, it is crystal clear to me that we were not prepared for today's heatwave," said Quinn. "We should have more ambulances and more EMTs assigned to work today."
Quinn said she has asked the mayor's office and fire department to expand the number of additional emergency vehicles available, up from the 14 spares she said the city had on hand Tuesday.
"It took 31 minutes. You had the speaker of the City Council and a local councilmember there with 14 TV cameras," Quinn said. "If we had to wait that long, other New Yorkers certainly had to wait that long."
The FDNY, which oversees EMS, defended its response time, saying that the call to help Toro "was appropriately tagged as not being a high-priority, life-threatening call."
“Every call for medical assistance is important and ambulance dispatching is prioritized so life-threatening calls — for a choking child, cardiac arrest or chest pains — take precedence over non-life threatening injuries — where the patient is breathing, alert and communicating. That was the case here. In addition, the patient was being treated by a police officer who is an EMT, so care was being administered from the moment the incident occurred," Fire Department officials said in a statement.
The statement further said that some ambulances are kept strictly in reserve for life-threatening calls — especially during the hot weather.
"With a high volume of calls during extreme heat, a call for a non life-threatening injury with an alert patient being treated by a trained EMT is appropriately not deemed a high priority, which in some cases like this one, means that it takes longer for an ambulance to get to the scene," the statement said.
The city has been previously criticized for its slow emergency response time after crews were delayed a full 4 minutes in responding to a 4-year-old girl who was hit by a speeding SUV in June. The girl, Ariel Russo, died by the time she arrived at the hospital.