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  1. #1
    Sr. Information Officer NJFFSA16's Avatar
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    Post Ambulance dispatchers disciplined in death of heart attack victim

    (Memphis-AP) -- The Memphis Fire Department has disciplined five
    dispatchers who bungled an emergency call to aid a heart attack
    victim.
    The man died after ambulances were sent to three wrong
    locations, despite repeated calls from witnesses who saw
    68-year-old James Hill Wagner collapse at a pool hall July ninth.
    Records show an ambulance finally arrived to aid Wagner nearly
    30 minutes after the first call from a bartender who had given
    dispatchers the correct address.
    Wagner died later that night at Baptist Memorial
    Hospital-Memphis.
    Those disciplined were LaTina Cole-McNeil, who got a 72-hour
    unpaid suspension; Barbara Ware, who received an eight-hour
    suspension; Shelby Bugg and Mary Main, who drew written reprimands;
    and Michelle Hines, who got an oral reprimand.
    The dispatchers also were ordered to have additional training.

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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  2. #2
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    Default

    I serve as a firefighter, EMT, and dispatcher, so I've spent a lot of time on BOTH sides of the radio. First of all (and I don't think any of you will disagree with me), there are some LOUSY dispatchers out there. Many of them have no emergency training at all, nor have they ever served as an emergency responder.

    However, before we can condemn these dispatchers, I think their side of the story needs to be heard. I think an impartial party needs to investigate this call - check the audio recordings, for example.

    Having sat in that chair, I can tell you that the info you get from the caller, no matter how perfect THEY think it is, is often totally incorrect. I've had patients nearly die on me, because a caller gave me incorrect information. This was proven by the audio tapes.

    Not to mention the fact that dispatchers work under EXTREME pressure. What else was going on at the time of that call? Were there other emergencies occuring at that time? Was the address an easily mistakable address, like First Street instead of First Avenue? Did the enhanced 911 database have an incorrect address, leading the dispatchers to call out the wrong address?

    I'm neither accusing nor defending these dispatchers, I just urge everyone who reads this to put yourself in the shoes of your own "idiot dispatcher" before you judge them. Cut them some slack, they've got a harder job than you know.

  3. #3
    Early Adopter cozmosis's Avatar
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    The State of Arkansas requires that full-time police officers attend a law enforcement standards training academy. Arkansas just passed a law that requires full-time firefighters to attend a rookie academy. Arkansas has their own EMT certification, but first-time applicants must pass the NREMT-B test. Yet, what's the requirement to be a dispatcher?

    Hrm. I *think* they have to be breathing. Maybe.

    For many cities, the dispatching problem is not the fault of the dispatcher... but rather the departments that hire them. The money is usually worse than police, fire or EMS... and the rewards are also fewer and far between. Yet, we expect them to perform perfectly most of the time.

    With that said, however, I'm glad to see the Memphis dispatcher punished for what amounts to a failure in their duty. I, too, would like to hear their half of the story... but delaying arrival for 30 minutes? That's unacceptable regardless of circumstances.

  4. #4
    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    Originally posted by cozmosis
    ... but delaying arrival for 30 minutes? That's unacceptable regardless of circumstances.
    Unacceptable, yes. However, that doesn't mean it is automaticlly the dispatcher's fault. Remember, even a good dispatcher can only give information based on what they know. If the caller doesn't know where the hell they are, the dispatcher isn't psychic.

    I would think at this point, someone in charge did the appropriate research into the incident before making a press release. I hope. If what this article says is true, I hope they learn from their mistakes and it doesn't happen again.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

  5. #5
    Early Adopter cozmosis's Avatar
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    Originally posted by nmfire
    Remember, even a good dispatcher can only give information based on what they know. If the caller doesn't know where the hell they are, the dispatcher isn't psychic.
    Yeah, but if the dispatchers didn't have the information, the story would have been "Man dies when FD takes 30 minutes to reach him: Caller failed to give address."

  6. #6
    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    I know, I'm not saying thats what happened in this case. I'm just saying it because many people just assume "the stupid dispatcher screwed this and that up" without knowing all the details. Like I said, I would hope since the issued a press release, any internal investigation including that of audio tapes has been long completed.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Firebraun's Avatar
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    Doesn't Memphis have "Enhanced" 911? With that system, the address of the phone the caller is calling from appears on the dispatchers' computer screen, and the only possibility of a mistake is the dispatcher reading it wrong.
    Fire service survival tips:
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  8. #8
    Early Adopter cozmosis's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Firebraun
    Doesn't Memphis have "Enhanced" 911? With that system, the address of the phone the caller is calling from appears on the dispatchers' computer screen, and the only possibility of a mistake is the dispatcher reading it wrong.
    Enhanced 911 isn't perfect. Often times, people call from cell phones. They call from a phone down the street. The 911 computer glitches and doesn't provide the information. And, sometimes, the 911 computer is simply wrong.

  9. #9
    Forum Member HeavyRescueTech's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ambulance dispatchers disciplined in death of heart attack victim

    Originally posted by NJFFSA16 The man died after ambulances were sent to three wrong locations, despite repeated calls from witnesses who saw
    68-year-old James Hill Wagner collapse at a pool hall July ninth.
    [/B]
    Speaking as an EMT, FF, and EMD/911 certified guy who used to do dispatching, I have two major questions. the first is if there were "repeated calls" from people, why are ambulances not sent to all the "wrong locations?" by that, i mean if the first time the dispatcheer heard 123 First Ave, and the second call the dispatcher heard 123 First St, why weren't two amblances, along with either Fire/Police/other first responders, sent immediately to those locations? and if it is found to be the wrong location, why isn't a call back done to confirm the address? this can be done even if meemphis doesn't have E-911.

    The second question is more bothersome. If I'm the call taker, and someone calls me saying there is a person who is cardiac arrest, I'm supposed to give them pre-arrival instruction over the phone. that's what the whole EMD system is for. and your not supposed to hang up (when giving CPR or other instructions) until other medical personel show up. If if the person collapses and is breathing, that's ok, then the their condition worses, the caller is supposed to call me back immediately.

    There has to be more information that we aren't being given, and I'd want to listen to the tape for the call before I make a comment about the dispatchers.
    If my basic HazMat training has taught me nothing else, it's that if you see a glowing green monkey running away from something, follow that monkey!

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  10. #10
    Forum Member tripperff's Avatar
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    Default 5 dispatchers disciplined for one incident?

    If 5 people were disciplined for screwing up one incident I would venture to guess that there wasn't much going on at the time. I would also guess that if it's been proven the original caller gave the correct address that someone in the chain wasn't paying attention when the call came in. I know the EMD system used where I am, and I would guess most others would dictate that the dispatcher remain on the line with the caller for what I'm reading as a cardiac event until responders arrive on scene. Seems to me the punishments that were handed out weren't out of line and I would say whoever is ultimately responsible when the legal papers are served better make sure the insurance premiums are paid up.
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  11. #11
    Forum Member kghemtp's Avatar
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    Well, we do have great dispatchers here among us, and my limited knowledge of dispatch still tells me that the dispatcher doesn't take all the blame in any situation. And ya know what, if a mistake happened somewhere, the people involved go through additional training to fix an issue that shouldn't happen again. We've all made mistakes somewhere, so I don't think this situation should be weighted more than something we might do on the street. And as others have said before me, there are so many other variables in the call where incorrect addresses might have been called in, or E911 might not be accurate. So often people want a scapegoat, and it's pretty easy to take an assumed mistake & run with it. Has anyone taken the theory that this person might not have lived even if an AED had been on the wall of the pool hall? How about guessing that any pool hall would generally be full of smoke and might serve alcohol, and because of this our recently departed patient might have had more than one risk factor for heart disease? So let's say there was an ALS unit around the corner and this dispatch went flawlessly. The patient is found to be asystolic on the monitor, no response to pacing, no response to Epi & Atropine. Say this person isn't a perfect tube or the medic accidentally tubes the esophagus. Are we calling the AP to air THIS story now too? Ya know I don't want a raise or a pat on the back every time I open up my COPD patient with a nebulizer, but I also don't think half of the negative crap that gets printed should be out there magnifying someone's goof. Enough of the damn pointing of fingers or shifting blame so we look perfect. I've made mistakes that got passed around through the rumormill. Things were rectified long before the first dip$hit altered the story, but reputations got smeared some. And actually, when WAS the last time you got front page for pushing D50, holding someone's hand, or speaking calmly & respectfully to a patient's family or something else equally important in treatment? I don't put a lot of stock in the negative publicity when the vast majority of our jobs get overlooked by those who take and never seem to give. Ya know what, the dispatcher gets the same stork we do for delivering babies. They are equals and might as well be partners of ours out here.

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