Records show EMS did send an ambulance to that call even as we’ve seen many delays getting EMS to critical calls.
That led us to investigate.
A recording shows last month a man called 911 from the parking lot of Lutheran Hospital. He had gone to the emergency room for pain in his hand.
An EMS report indicates, “the hospital was taking too long so he left and wants an ambulance.”
“They’re doing nothing with me. Forty-five minutes to an hour. I’m in so much pain,” the caller said.
“OK, I’m not allowed to send an ambulance to a hospital to pick someone up,” the dispatcher responded.
“I’ll walk in the street,” the caller said.
“Can he go to the street?” a woman with him asked.
At that point, dispatch answered with, “If you go to the street, I can send an ambulance. I just can’t send them to hospital property.”
The I-Team has revealed chronic delays with Cleveland EMS. Short-staffing has lead to long response times even for critical emergencies.
In this case, there was no delay. An ambulance responded in 10 minutes.
The 911 recording continued with dispatch telling the caller, “Go to the street, and tell me where you’re at.”
“I’m right in the middle of the street,” the caller said.
The I-Team wondered about EMS sending an ambulance to someone who had simply walked out of the ER, tired of waiting to be seen. We wondered if you automatically get treated more quickly at the hospital if you come in by ambulance.
Interim Deputy Commissioner Chris Chapin wrote in an email that this case is now part of an internal review.
“The Division of EMS does not routinely respond to hospital property. We do, however, take the emergency medical needs of individuals seriously. If there is any possibility that a person will not receive urgent medical care, e.g., the person is not in a location not readily accessible to hospital personnel such as a parking lot, an ambulance will be dispatched to avoid abandoning the patient. This current instance is currently being investigated for potential corrective action and therefore we cannot comment further on the incident,“ the email said.
Meanwhile, we checked with the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals and MetroHealth Medical Center.
They all told us, in short, whether someone walks in or comes by ambulance, all patients get evaluated for medical problems and urgency. No special treatment is given based on how someone gets there.
The Cleveland Clinic wrote, “All patients who arrive at one of our Emergency Departments, whether via ambulance or private vehicle, are assessed for stability before they are asked to wait in the waiting room. The waiting room is monitored by staff members to make sure that no one is in an unsafe situation at any time. Also, patient volumes in our Emergency Departments are high right now due in part to the widespread prevalence of respiratory viruses.”
MetroHealth Medical Center wrote, “Everyone is assessed immediately on arrival, regardless how they arrive. They are assigned a treatment area based on the severity of injury or illness and then start the process of receiving care.”
University Hospitals wrote, “Every patient, whether they walk in or are brought by an ambulance, is triaged upon arrival – meaning, they are evaluated by a nurse to determine the severity of their condition. No preference is made because of mode of transportation.”
In this case, records show an ambulance crew never found the caller, but EMS did send a unit to look for a man tired of waiting in the emergency room.