Man Having Stroke Waits Nearly an Hour for Ambulance

By: Jim Freeman
By: Jim Freeman

Knoxville (WVLT) - When you call 911 you expect an ambulance to arrive at your home within minutes, but Wednesday, dispatch records show it took one Rural Metro ambulance over 45 minutes to arrive at the home of a stroke victim.

This comes, just over two weeks after Rural Metro paid a $96,000 penalty for slow response times.

Volunteer TV’s Jim Freeman has new details on this latest problem and reaction from the victim's family.

Kelly Webster noticed her husband experiencing signs of a stroke Wednesday at their home on Watauga Drive.

She called 911 at 4:11 p.m., the fire department showed up minutes later.

And she says she's so happy they did, because the Rural Metro ambulance didn't arrive for 46 minutes.

"His headaches are getting really, really bad to where he can't handle the light and his right arm's drawing up,” Kelly Webster tells 911 dispatcher on a tape released Thursday.

Last week, a Rural Metro ambulance arrived at this home in a handful of minutes. That wasn't the case Wednesday.

"The ambulance was called at the same time that the fire truck was called, but it didn't get here for almost another hour," Kelly says.

According to 911 records, it took about three-minutes for Fire Engine 15 to arrive, but half an hour later, those same record show firefighters were still waiting.

Engine 15: "Could you check on the status of my ambulance please.”

Dispatch: "Engine 15."

Engine 15: "Go ahead."

Dispatch: "They've got another ambulance coming now because that one can't find it."

"One firefighter was pretty upset. He came out here and I heard him. He was really upset. ‘Cause he knew my husband was in danger,” Kelly says.

Thirty-eight minutes later, still no ambulance.

Engine 15: "Dispatch you need to hurry that ambulance up, we need it now."

Two minutes later, still no ambulance.

Engine 15: "Can you call another ambulance company? Pro-Need or something? We have no response yet."

Six minutes after that call and more than 45-minutes after the first call, "Medic unit is now on the scene,” a firefighter reports to the dispatcher.

What does Rural Metro say?

"I'm not gonna make an excuse. Obviously, a 47-minute response time is unacceptable regardless of what happens,” says Tre Hargett, Vice President for Rural Metro South Group. "We had 19 units in service at that time and 17 of those were on emergency calls at that very time."

Kelly Webster was worried about only one call.

"They called 'em like four or five times,” Kelly says.

Kelly says she's thankful those calls were made. "If it wasn't for Jacksboro Pike Fire Department, I don't know what I would've done yesterday."

Kelly tells WVLT that her husband Ronnie is going to be ok.

Tre Hargett adds that lately Rural Metro has been running above its 90% response threshold. He also says that Rural Metro wants to do its very best for this community.

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  • by Ron Location: Knox on Dec 7, 2007 at 04:32 PM
    R/M has a GPS "locator" on the ambulance. The crew does not have a GPS system unless they bring their own. They all have a map of Knox County and are given a map grid from dispatch. The dispatch center can watch the ambulance on their GPS screen and tell the crew better directions when asked. However, it is a machine and does not always work. It's not in real time, but very close to it. The other thing to take into consideration is that if all but 2 of the ambulances are on emergencies, where were they coming from when dispatched on this call? Was this article accurate in what was going on with the ambulances? Sometimes when an ambulance goes back in service and someone is responding to an emergency from a long distance, the emergency will be given to the crew that is closer that is now in service. As far as the incident in the comments about not having blankets, that's a crew error. R/M offers blankets to all of its crews. That crew either ran out before that call, or weren't stocked.
  • by Lee Location: Knoxville on Jul 30, 2007 at 04:57 PM
    It is not only the time it takes rural metro to show up at the scene, but the training they receive to handle situations. My friend fell on the deck of the hottub, and when the paramedics arrived, her arm was frozen to the deck for 45 minutes. They (Rural Metro) had no training for this situation, no blankets to cover my friend in the cold, and all of the hot water in the hot tub, and no one thought to unfreeze her arm by splashing up hot water on the deck. As a result of this trama,she( My friend,) suffered RSD which caused her arm that was frozen to the deck to take 5 months of therapy, and now the nerves in her hand is damaged. The doctor says it was the trauma of being frozen to the deck for 45 min., It doesn't take any extensive training to let someone volunteer for something, but when we, (tax payers) pay for these services, we expect those handling our most urgent emergencies to be at least prepared for anything. I hope something makes the response time and training more serious.
  • by JB Location: Knoxville on Jul 30, 2007 at 04:41 PM
    There are many problems with the Rural Metro system. It is just too bad that the general public doesn't know all about them. The fine last month was not the first and probably won't be the last. In the last few months Rural Metro has not been working like the people of Knox Co expect and deserve and the Health Dept finally had to draw the line. I am not sure why the issue has not been addressed in a more efficent and a quicker manner. The next time a patient may not be so lucky. Knox County residents need to demand an answer and demand something be done. Without the public input, things like this will continue to happen. And as far as a GPS system, the ambulances have them. Sad isn't it?
  • by LEE Location: knoxville on Jul 29, 2007 at 04:30 PM
    Guess if the people who are bashing Rural Metro in the comments still worked for Metro they wouldn't bash them.
  • by Gail Location: Knoxville on Jul 28, 2007 at 04:04 PM
    Goodness, mistakes happen. Since when are we as a society perfect. We have certainly gotten really good at playing the blame game.
  • by linda Location: knoxville on Jul 28, 2007 at 12:00 PM
    A lot of money goes into E-911 systems; when will the directors be held responsible for continuation of ambiguous addresses?
  • by GARY SHELTON Location: knox county on Jul 27, 2007 at 01:58 PM
    Has Rural metro ever heard of a gps device that would elimanate this sort of probem going to wrong address it speaks and gives u turn by turn audio
  • by Joe Location: Knoxville on Jul 27, 2007 at 01:55 PM
    Again, your enhanced 911 system (paid on your phone bill) is supposed to clarify the address via the phone number. The ambulance crew still must learn to, and must use a map to get to the call location. Rural Metro does not assure that their employees can do this nor do they provide up-to-date maps. However, these two street have been around for decades. And again, where was the suprevisor during this time - he should have been able to get there in less time, unless he was "busy" doing other things.
  • by gary Location: knox county on Jul 27, 2007 at 01:52 PM
    went to wrong watuga 911 always asks for a cross street maybe Rural Metro needs a gps device like a Garmin c330 on the ambulances
  • by public Location: Area on Jul 26, 2007 at 11:41 PM
    The ambulances went to area of dispatch that they where given. Ambulance crews did thier job despite the dispatch mistake, and I feel it should be noted where the error occured. These mistakes happen.EMS workers for Rural Metro have saved countless lives and continue to do so and are held to near perfect standards. So why dont we put that into perspective. They do a phenominal job everyday for Knoxville. Yes I would be upset to if I was the patients family. Luckily his condition was not as serious as originally thought.
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