Problems with the city's 911 system became the focus of an unrelated Brooklyn campaign event for mayoral candidate Christine Quinn Tuesday afternoon, when it allegedly took more than 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive and transport a City Council intern who had fainted from the heat. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
A Tuesday campaign event for Christine Quinn started out normally enough.
Things, though, soon took a scary turn, as an 18-year-old council intern collapsed onto the sidewalk and could not get up.
Calls went in to 911, and a detective on Quinn's security detail gave the girl oxygen and took her pulse. Then, the waiting began. More than 20 minutes passed, and still no ambulance.
Quinn called the fire commissioner and left a voicemail. Then, she called Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and told him she needed help immediately.
"I don't know what in God's name could have taken so long to get this ambulance to help this young girl, but you can rest assured I am going to find out," Quinn said.
Quinn stayed by the girl's side for most of the wait. She said she tried to reassure her, telling the intern an ambulance would coming in a minute.
"I can't really say to her, 'They're going to be here in a half an hour,' because that is going to panic her," Quinn said.
An aide to Quinn finally placed a call to Hatzolah, a Jewish-run volunteer ambulance service. Shortly before they arrived, a fire truck pulled up. But it was a Hatzolah ambulance, not a city one, that ultimately took the girl to the hospital. By Quinn's clock, it arrived 31 minutes after the 911 calls went in.
The speaker said the situation was outrageous. She met with the fire commissioner and a deputy mayor in the afternoon.
"We were not prepared for today's heat wave," Quinn said.
A fire department spokesman said the call was, appropriately, not considered a high priority because the girl was alert and breathing. He also noted that the city put 14 extra ambulances on the road in response to the heat. There do not appear to be any immediate plans to raise those numbers higher.
As for the intern, Quinn said she is out of the hospital and at home with her family and appears to be fine. It seems she was dehydrated.
FDNY Statement On Quinn Team's 911 Call
"Every call for medical assistance is important and ambulance dispatching is prioritized so life threatening calls—for a choking child, cardiac arrest or chest pains—take precedence over non-life threatening injuries—where the patient is breathing, alert and communicating. That was the case here. In addition, the patient was being treated by a police officer who is an EMT, so care was being administered from the moment the incident occurred. The call was appropriately tagged as not being a high-priority, life-threatening call. Additionally, some ambulances are kept strictly in reserve for life-threatening calls, allowing for them to arrive in minutes, and they are not dispatched to lower priority incidents so they are not occupied when a life-threatening call comes in. With a high volume of calls during extreme heat, a call for a non-life threatening injury with an alert patient being treated by a trained EMT is appropriately not deemed a high priority, which in some cases like this one, means that it takes longer for an ambulance to get to the scene. But it is critical that life-saving resources be prioritized and used for high-priority, life threatening incidents."