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New York City's EMS chief replaced over storm response

By the CNN Wire Staff
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NYC snow workers accused of slowdown
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "I felt new leadership was needed at this time," fire commissioner says
  • The move comes amid criticism over handling of a storm that blanketed the region
  • Thousands of 911 calls were backlogged

(CNN) -- The New York City fire commissioner on Wednesday replaced the man who led the Emergency Medical Service for six years following sharp criticism of the department for its response to a blizzard that blanketed the city after Christmas.

"Last week's blizzard presented tremendous challenges for the Department that are currently being addressed with an eye toward improving performance going forward," said Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano in announcing the change late Wednesday night.

The EMS Chief, John Peruggia, will remain with the department in a new as-yet undetermined role, Cassano said in a statement.

"Despite Chief Peruggia's dedicated service to this Department, I felt new leadership was needed at this time," Cassano said

As the city grappled with the fifth-largest storm in New York history, thousand of calls to emergency dispatchers were backlogged, prompting Mayor Michael Bloomberg to urge residents not to dial 911 unless it was a life-threatening emergency.

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Ambulances were stuck in the snow on their way to pick up patients. The states of New York and New Jersey loaned the city 35 ambulances to help reduce the backlog of emergency medical services requests.

In one instance, a newborn died in Brooklyn after the mother waited nine hours for emergency responders, New York Fire Department spokesman Steve Rittea said last week.

CNN's Jason Kessler contributed to this report.