Records show Cleveland EMS boss asked patient to walk to ER


Calls reveal Cleveland EMS unprepared last month for possible coronavirus

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CLEVELAND (WJW)– The FOX 8 I-Team uncovered recordings showing Cleveland EMS asked a patient to walk to a hospital emergency room since he thought he might have coronavirus.

When that call came in, city ambulance crews did not have a plan in place for handling possible cases of the deadly disease. The recordings expose that.

The call came in last month. The dispatch tapes were released to the I -Team.

A dispatcher can be heard telling an ambulance crew to put on protective suits.

“I’m gonna be sending you on a run. You’re gonna have to suit up because this kid was claiming he was in China. He’s got a fever. And he’s basically claiming he has coronavirus,” the dispatcher said.

“See if he can make it down to University (Hospitals)… Get there on his own instead of getting us involved just because we’re not ready for this yet,” a supervisor can be heard saying. “See if they can walk down to the emergency room.”

The EMS crew was told to standby. Supervisors contacted health officials trying not to expose paramedics or others. The patient was even asked to walk a half-mile to the ER.

“Are you able to walk at all?” EMS asked.

“Do you think it’s OK for me to walk down to the E-R? I think I’m physically capable,” the patient said.

In the end, a Cleveland Heights rescue squad picked up the patient. Turns out, that patient actually was just over the border.

On the EMS recording you hear, “They’re gonna have Cleveland Heights respond down.” And, the response, “I’m trying to figure out why Cleveland Heights is exposing themselves to this.”

In the weeks since that case, Cleveland EMS came up with pages of new guidelines for handling any calls that may involve the coronavirus. It includes everything from what dispatchers should ask, to what paramedics should wear, to how to take the patient to the hospital, even how to, later, disinfect the ambulance.

University Hospitals told us the patient last month did not have the coronavirus. The Ohio Department of Health said there have been no cases in Ohio.

But that call last month revealed what Cleveland EMS had to do to get ready, just in case.

On the recordings, you also hear, “The commissioner’s worried about the outcome of this.”

“The Ohio Department of Health would not recommend that EMS refuse transport to anyone who was ill. EMS personnel have been trained to respond to possible cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) and will be protected from spread of the virus by using the normal recommended personal protective equipment during interaction with and transport of infected patients,” the health department said in an email.

An assistant fire chief in Cleveland Heights told us, just after that call last month, his crews rely on their regular precautions when handling most patients who may have an infectious disease.

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