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Md. furlough may have caused critical delay

By Dave Statter
STATter911.com

LARGO, Md. — When the woman who lives in the 11000 block of Herrington Court called 911 Monday morning because her husband was having trouble breathing, she received a prompt response. Ambulance 846, at the Largo firehouse on Campus Way South, was a little more than a mile away from Herrington Court.

It was similar to the response the family received a few weeks earlier when the same 71-year-old man became sick. But there was one significant difference. According to sources, the crew that arrived on the first call was from Medic 846, staffed with paramedics. Medic 846 wasn't available for this latest call and that was not because the crew was on another emergency. Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department Chief Spokesman Mark Brady confirms the reason Medic 846 wasn't dispatched is that its crew had been furloughed for eight hours.

Instead, Ambulance 846 arrived on the scene at 11:00 AM, about 6 minutes after the 911 call, unable to provide advanced life support (ALS) treatment. ALS care was needed because the patient was in cardiac arrest when the ambulance crew got to his side. Crew members used the units automatic external defibrillator and performed CPR until the arrival of the next closest medic unit, Medic 820, from Upper Marlboro.

Medic 820 was at its quarters, 14814 Pratt Street, when the call came in. Station 820 is the ninth closest PGFD station to that address. According to Brady, Medic 820 was dispatched at the same time as Ambulance 846, but it took them 13 minutes to travel the 7.1 miles to the scene. According to sources familiar with Monday's call, the crew from Medic 820 was able to get a pulse from the man on three different occasions before arriving at the hospital. Each time the man went back into cardiac arrest. Doctors worked the patient for about an hour at the emergency department, before pronouncing him dead.

Our sources tell us the man was recovering from heart surgery performed after his previous trip to the hospital.

The sources have asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to speak about this incident.

Spokesman Brady, contacted by 9NEWS NOW, confirmed these times for the handling of the call on Herrington Court:

10:54 911 call initiated

10:55 Ambulance 846 and Medic 820 dispatched

11:00 Ambulance 846 arrives

11:04 Ambulance 846 advised a working code and Engine 846 was alerted to call

11:08 Medic 820 arrives

11:09 Engine 846 arrives

11:27 Medic 820 transports to hospital.

In an email, Brady added the following as part of his response to our questions about the call:

"These times reflect the way the incident was handled with the appropriate units being dispatched, taking into consideration that the first due medic unit was not available. I do not see how the times could have been any better considering the patient was loaded and transported within 27 minutes after arrival of the first unit. The second due medic unit arrived ahead of the engine crew which was required to assist in loading the patient.

While I would always like to see better times, who wouldn't, on every call, I do not see that this incident and associated times rises to the level of newsworthiness."

The Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department began furloughing firefighters and medics on September 28. The furloughs require all county employees to lose 80-hours pay before June, 2009 in an effort to close a budget shortfall.

According to a schedule obtained by 9NEWS NOW, Medic 820 and Medic 846 are on the same furlough rotation, but at different times during the day . Monday was the start of four days of furloughs for these two units, hitting all four shifts. Sources tell us while Medic 846 is shut down from 7:00 AM until 3:00 PM, Medic 820 is furloughed during the overnight hours.

Click here to see the schedule of medic units closed by furloughs.

Republished with permission from WUSA9




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