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Tape: Hospital offered aid

A dispatch tape appears to back up Washington County Hospital's claim that it offered to treat a man who was injured Fridy in an

A dispatch tape appears to back up Washington County Hospital's claim that it offered to treat a man who was injured Fridy in an

August 07, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Washington County Hospital's emergency room staff offered to treat an injured Glen Burnie, Md., man who did not reach a Baltimore hospital until about 90 minutes after he was injured Friday evening, a hospital spokeswoman said Tuesday. An emergency dispatch tape appears to back that up.

Justin Nathaniel Fishell, 25, who suffered a head injury Friday, remained in critical condition Tuesday evening at the University of Maryland Shock-Trauma Center in Baltimore.

Fishell fell off an all-terrain vehicle at the Mason-Dixon Dragway on U.S. 40 east of Hagerstown at 5:23 p.m. He did not arrive at the Shock-Trauma Center until 6:55 p.m., emergency workers said.

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A medic said Monday that Washington County Hospital would not take the injured man. But on the tape of emergency dispatch calls, a dispatcher is heard telling emergency personnel: "Hospital said they can take the patient because the patient is unstable."

Washington County Hospital's trauma center, about eight miles away, has been closed since June 1.

Since then, emergency personnel have in some cases called for Maryland State Police helicopters to fly trauma patients to Baltimore or elsewhere.

On Friday, emergency workers called for a state police medevac helicopter to take Fishell to the Shock-Trauma Center.

Washington County 911 dispatchers learned that the helicopter could not respond for 30 minutes and relayed that information to emergency room staff, said hospital spokeswoman Kelly Redmond, who said she listened to a tape recording of the conversation.

An emergency room staff member asked if the patient were stable, but that could not be determined at the time, Redmond said.

The staff member then directed dispatchers to transport the patient to Washington County Hospital if he was unstable or to wait for the helicopter if he was stable, Redmond said.

Dispatchers later told the hospital that the patient would not be taken to Washington County Hospital, she said.

Redmond said the tape appears to show that emergency room staff followed proper procedure by telling dispatchers to send the patient to Washington County Hospital if he were unstable.

She said procedure calls for stabilizing patients at Washington County Hospital before they are flown to the Shock-Trauma Center.

The hospital was on "yellow alert" that evening, which means the emergency room was full.

But Redmond said that even under yellow alert, the hospital's policy is to accept unstable patients.

Boonsboro Ambulance Medic Clifford Davis, who placed Fishell on a backboard and gave him intravenous fluids, said Monday that the hospital would not take the patient, even temporarily. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

A Herald-Mail reporter on Tuesday listened to the tape-recorded conversation of emergency dispatch radio communications between the hospital, the medics on the scene, the dispatcher and the pilot of the Maryland State Police helicopter.

On the tape, the dispatcher can be heard telling medics on the scene several times that the hospital said it would accept the patient if he were unstable.

The tape indicates a helicopter based in Cumberland, Md., was unavailable, and the dispatcher contacted helicopter personnel based in Frederick, Md.

The Frederick pilot says he can take the trauma patient but first needs to refuel in Frederick, according to the tape. The pilot suggests the patient be taken to the Myersville (Md.) Fire Department for pickup by the helicopter, because that is on the way to the Shock-Trauma Center, according to the tape.

Aviation Division Cpl. Donald Lehman, who was not on the call but had the log from the flight, said Monday that a helicopter met up with the Boonsboro ambulance in Myersville.

The helicopter picked up Fishell, but stayed on the ground until Fishell's airway was no longer blocked by vomiting, Lehman said.

Flight medics typically evaluate patients before taking off, a process that can take several minutes, according to a Washington County Emergency Services official.

Hospital officials talked extensively with emergency medical service providers about the case on Tuesday, Redmond said.

"Everyone's aware that something went wrong," she said.

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