Pittsburgh Investigation Finds Ambulance Problems

Jon

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Team 4 Investigates Ambulance Problems


POSTED: 5:59 p.m. EDT May 20, 2005
UPDATED: 7:14 p.m. EDT May 20, 2005


Story by The Pittsburgh Channel

-- We count on emergency medical technicians and paramedics to be there when we need them.

They count on their equipment to be in good working order. But a Team 4 investigation has discovered that's not always the case.

Investigative reporter Jim Parsons read through hundreds of inspection reports for local ambulance companies. He found problem after problem.

This is National EMS week, and there are a lot of ambulance companies in southwestern Pennsylvania that do things the right way, but some have had problems.

Also, Team 4 discovered that state-ordered inspections of ambulances are infrequent -- and when inspectors find violations, there are no sanctions for the ambulance companies.

Parsons' report appears below. It first aired May 20, 2005, on Channel 4 Action News at 5 p.m.



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You never know when you'll need them. When you do, you assume they'll have all the tools they're supposed to have, and the tools will be in working order. Don't assume.



Susan lost her father in 1999.

Susan: "It was a terrible time that we went through. I wouldn't want anybody to have to go through that."

After undergoing open heart surgery, her father, Dwain, was placed on a ventilator and needed to be transported from one hospital to another. When the ambulance arrived, there was a problem. The ventilator battery on the ambulance was dead.

Susan: "The ambulance people said, 'Our battery isn't working, we can't transport him, we need to get another ambulance in here.' "

In a lawsuit against the ambulance company, Dwain's widow, Joyce, claims that the transport delay caused Dwain stress. He died later that day.

Joyce: "You can't be careless. You have to have all working equipment. Don't they have inspections? Just like they inspect our cars. You can't go out with your car not running and things not working on your car."

At the request of Dwain's family, Team 4 is not using their last name or the name of the ambulance company with the faulty battery.

Pennsylvania does require equipment inspections for ambulances, but you''ll never know what's in those inspection reports unless you travel to Harrisburg and sort through the documents. That's what Team 4 did.

Take a look at some of the violations we found.

Lower Valley Ambulance in Cheswick serves part of the Allegheny Valley. In its most recent inspection, Lower Valley had two ambulances that were missing the required number of hypodermic needles and one that was missing an oxygen mask and the oxygen itself. The inspector wrote on his report, then later scratched out, "Medical waste all over truck. Dirty under bench. Floor, used medical waste."

That was not a surprise inspection. The ambulance company knew inspectors were coming.

At Eureka Community Ambulance in Tarentum, inspectors found violations on board three ambulances involving endotracheal tubes, defibrillators and hypodermic needles.

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ffemt8978

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Originally posted by MedicStudentJon@May 27 2005, 11:14 AM
Joyce: "You can't be careless. You have to have all working equipment. Don't they have inspections? Just like they inspect our cars. You can't go out with your car not running and things not working on your car."
I understand what's she's saying, but when was the last time she inspected her vehicle on a daily basis?

In a lawsuit against the ambulance company, Dwain's widow, Joyce, claims that the transport delay caused Dwain stress. He died later that day.

I also find it hard to believe that a dead ventilator battery on the amulance caused enough stress on the patient to kill him (maybe it was the heart attack?). I mean, wasn't he still on the hospital's ventilator until the second ambulance showed up?

I truly feel sorry for her loss, and agree that there is a problem with equipment not working. But to say that the ambulance company was the proximate cause of her husband's death is stretching it just a little bit. If the ambulance was actually transporting him at the time the battery died, or that he died during transport because of an equipment problem, then she might have a case.
 
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Jon

Jon

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I agree wholeheartedly.

I check my rig every time I start my shift. On an ALS truck that would include O2, oxygen accessories, monitor, spare lifepak batteries, pump, inverter, vent, IV supplies, Narcs, BLS stuff, OIL, Steering fluid, Coolant, transmission fluid, etc....

I've run out of onboard o2 before. I always had 500 or 1000 to start with, but I had a busy day, or long runs, or both.

If the guy was being transferred for a Cath, he could have died as a result of the transport delay. otherwise, this sounds like bull.

Jon
 

rescuecpt

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Sue sue sue! This is America afterall... doesn't matter who's fault it is, no fault at all, a mere accident? Whatever! Sue the pants off everyone!
 

TTLWHKR

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Maybe they should investigate all these goddamn equipment suppliers who charge us 600.00 for a piece of equipment that costs 20.00 to make?
 

SafetyPro2

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Have to agree...it's a pretty big stretch of the imagination to place the blame for the death on the delay. Of course, the jury probably won't understand that and will most likely side with the family because of the equipment malfunction.

Good reminder to make sure your rig is in tip-top shape. We're having to stress that with a few of our newer EMTs who are now staffing the ambulance. I for one go through our entire checkout everytime I take the rig, and get quite frustrated when I find problems.
 

TTLWHKR

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They don't mention that often the PA DOH Ambulance Inspector is unreasonable.

On one of our ambulance, we had three boxes of 100 count, sterile 4x4 gauze sponges; and 200 count box of sterile 2x2 gauze sponges.

She said it has to be Gauze Pads, not sponges. What the hell is the difference? And they have to be 3x3's.

WELL.. A 3x3 is a useless piece of equipment. A 2x2 has a purpose, and a 4x4 has a purpose. You don't need 3x3's also.

One ambulance had the same as the other, but had a box of 25 3x3's. Only because the storage cabinet only had one box. I couldn't buy boxes of 3x3's, the local store didn't sell them. She was criticizing us because we only had 25 of them. I nearly picked up the box and threw it away citing the useless need for them.

Then she *****ed because we had 10 yankauer tips, but only 5 2FR suction caths. So what, that's more than the state requires. Then she was upset because we used Prolite plastic boards, not wooden boards that could be disposed of. Then she was mad because we had non disposable penlights, and we had one that didn't work. Even though we had six of them, and only one is required. Then she was mad because we carried four different Jump Kits w/ oxygen Tanks. But didn't have a spare for every one of them. The codes say 1 portable w/ 1 spare. Four portables, means 3 spares. Then she was upset because the digital, built in clock was not set. There is no requirement for a clock. Besides, it had no second hand, it was a digital clock that looked conventional in a computer type way. Worthless. We bought everyone a watch instead. Station morale.

THEN...

She complained about our splints. We had the under side of the bench seat stuffed with Morrison Padded splints, the orange ones that come in 3 sized kits; or 9 sizes seperatly.

Well, we were compliant to all of the codes, but she wrote us up because our Backboard, Splints, penlights, and bag valve masks were not labled as "Disposable". So freakin what. We had bought Six Cases of Ambu Bags on sale from Moore, and they were non disposable. We still only use them once. THATS WHY WE BOUGHT SIX CASES. And Gloves. We only had Small, Medium, Large and X-Large Nitrile Gloves. She said that we can have Nitrile, but we should have the Latex ones too. Why? Most people don't know they have a latex allergy. Prevent it before it happens.

BUT DISPOSABLE BACK BOARDS!?!?!?!

WTF... Is the DOH Planning on paying for all this disposable equipment?


WHAT IS NEXT, DISPOSABLE AMBULANCES? :angry:
 
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Jon

Jon

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Wow...

Jon
 
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Jon

Jon

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Wow...

Jon
 

TTLWHKR

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Two wows?

Here, take a pill...


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