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August 3, 2015

Nearly 2-hour EMS response to sick infant sparks concern

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A Rural/Metro ambulance took nearly two hours to respond to a call for an infant with a 105-degree temperature, sparking concern among city officials.

Davina Phillips said she called 911 three times for her 10-month old son on July 12.

“It took them about an hour and 45 minutes to come,” Phillips told WGRZ.com. “The dispatcher kept telling me, ‘oh, we’re really busy today.’”

The infant’s high temperature was a result of a blood infection. He was immediately treated at the hospital, and is doing okay.

Buffalo Common Councilman David Franczyk said the city has not entered into a long-term contract with Rural/Metro due to concern over long wait times.

“The industry standard is within eight minutes,” Franczyk said.

Rural/Metro did not comment on the specific incident, but provided the following statement, which lists examples of non-emergency calls that a proposed community paramedic program would address:

“Emergency medical services is used by a very diverse population that sometimes includes individuals who lack access to normal, primary health care. As a result, we are often called for minor situations because patients have no other options. In Buffalo we follow a holding policy for non-emergency calls (aka COLD calls) so that life threatening emergency calls can be met with a timely response. HIPAA Privacy Rights preclude Rural/Metro from speaking about specific call information however we can discuss some generalities about non-life threatening "COLD" calls.

  • Someone who has been sick for a few days but lacks other forms of transportation may call 911 to have an ambulance take them to an Emergency Department rather than seeing their personal doctor or going to an urgent care. Ambulances in New York State cannot transport 911 patients to doctor's offices or urgent care centers therefore our only option is going to an Emergency Department.
  • Similarly, someone who is out of medication and needs to get a refill but has no way to get to a pharmacy may call 911. Ambulances in New York State cannot transport 911 patients to doctor's offices or urgent care centers and therefore our only option is going to an Emergency Department.

These examples are items that our proposed community paramedicine program would help address.

By holding non-emergent COLD calls, as triaged by the County 9-1-1 center, we can ensure timely response to life threatening emergencies.”


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