With no ambulance, EL cops try to save woman

EAST LIVERPOOL — Officials from two of three local ambulance companies said their personnel were on another call Saturday morning when city police officers were forced to transport a woman to the hospital, performing resuscitation themselves en route when no ambulance responded to their call for help.

Patrolman Jake Talbott responded at 8:22 a.m. to state Route 11 for reports of a possible disabled vehicle, where he found several people attempting to enter a locked vehicle in which 62-year-old Terri Green, Lisbon Street, was barely breathing.

He called for an ambulance and a wrecker and was advised by the city dispatcher that ASI Ambulance had a crew coming. When the ambulance failed to arrive, with Patrolman Chris Green trying to awaken the victim, Talbott reported he called the dispatcher again and was advised ASI had no ambulance available after all and that neither Lifeteam nor North Star Critical Care had crews available, and the dispatcher was calling Hancock County, W.Va. for an ambulance.

Officers, however, decided to transport Ms. Green and did so, performing chest compressions as they drove. After being initially treated at East Liverpool City Hospital and then flown to a Pittsburgh hospital, Ms. Green died of an apparent aneurysm in her brain.

Although both officers Talbott and Green did all they could, according to police Chief John Lane Monday, he said the effects of Ms. Green’s death weighed heavily on them, and Talbott questioned why none of the ambulance services had a crew available and why ASI crews initially said a crew was available if it was not.

Lane and Service-Safety Director Brian Allen said they believe the dispatcher on duty followed all protocol but all efforts are being made to download recordings of all messages made and received during the call to see exactly what was said.

Meanwhile, the newspaper contacted all three ambulance companies Monday for an explanation on why no crews were available Saturday and if ASI had, in fact, dropped the call as reported.

The message left for ASI was not returned, but both Lifeteam and North Star officials said their companies were called that morning by the ASI dispatcher and asked if they had a unit available during the same time of the call on state Route 11 involving Ms. Green.

Ken Joseph, chief paramedic for Lifeteam, said he had two ambulances and crews on duty that morning but both had been sent to what he believes was a cardiac arrest call in Salineville.

“Once we got there, we got turned away because North Star must have gotten the (same) call just before us. ASI called us and we were just clearing from Salineville. They asked where our closest unit was and we told their dispatcher our closest truck was headed back from Salineville. They said, ‘Ok,’ and ‘Click,’ (the phone was hung up), and they must have called someone else,” Joseph said.

North Star owner Christine Lerussi said her company had just one ambulance and crew on duty Saturday morning and it had responded to the Salineville emergency.

Lerussi said after reading news accounts of the incident involving Ms. Green, she checked and discovered ASI had called her company at 8:14 a.m. and asked if an ambulance was available.

“We said no. We weren’t involved in the call in East Liverpool,” Lerussi emphasized.

Both she and Joseph said it is not unusual that the two ambulance crews would respond to the same emergency without knowledge of each other, since people do sometimes call ambulance companies directly without going through police or other emergency dispatchers, with both also saying they don’t normally monitor each other’s radio traffic.

Joseph said, “If we get a call and don’t have a unit, we will start calling to get another company and give it to them.”

Neither he nor Lerussi could comment on why ASI would initially indicate a crew was on its way then drop the call, although Joseph said, “They only have one on the road and one dispatcher, so I don’t know how they wouldn’t know it wasn’t available.”

Responding to complaints it happens quite often that no ambulances are available, Lerussi agreed, “It happens more than I like. I think the EMS system is broken around here and a lot of things need fixed.”

She declined to elaborate on the record other than to say part of the problem is lack of personnel, noting, “Nobody wants to do this job anymore. But I have some guys that, to them, this is what they signed up for. It’s what I signed up for. I love my job.”

Some have also complained that local ambulance crews spend much of their time transporting nursing home patients back and forth to the hospital, which Lerussi said is also true.

“That’s still part of our job, whether transporting to a nursing home or from a car crash,” Lerussi stressed.

Joseph said, “Sometimes, people all do call at once. This heroin thing has been hammering everyone,” when asked if ambulances are often all busy at the same time.

He said Lifeteam has been in operation since 1967 with “really good people” serving the public.

City officials reacted quickly to the weekend’s incident, with Allen saying he and fire Chief Bill Jones will be presenting during city council’s Oct. 31 finance committee meeting “a permanent solution to our lack of ambulatory service.”

He said protocol in the dispatching center has also been changed so that, when a city dispatcher calls for an ambulance at all three local companies and none is available, prior to calling a company outside the area the city fire department will be called.

“All our (firefighters) are EMTs. They will render aid while the dispatcher continues to call the local ambulance companies,” Allen said.