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Team reviewing delay in Trauma Center trip

A team is investigating why it took 90 minutes for a man injured in an ATV accident Friday to reach a hospital

A team is investigating why it took 90 minutes for a man injured in an ATV accident Friday to reach a hospital

August 08, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Emergency medical officials said Wednesday they were still evaluating why it took 90 minutes for a man who fell off an all-terrain vehicle Friday to reach a hospital.

"Nobody will ever be able to make it right, but we can try to make sure it doesn't happen again," said Brigitte Heller, emergency medical services specialist for the Washington County Fire and Rescue Association.

Heller is part of a team reviewing what happened Friday after Justin Nathaniel Fishell, 25, fell off an all-terrain vehicle at the Mason-Dixon Dragway east of Hagerstown.

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Fishell, who was not wearing a helmet, suffered a head injury at 5:23 p.m. He got to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore at 6:55 p.m., emergency workers said. He had remained in critical condition.

Maryland State Police medevac helicopters were delayed first by weather and then by the need to refuel, according to a tape recording of the emergency communications call.

The tape appeared to show that Washington County Hospital offered to treat Fishell and stabilize him until the helicopter could get there and fly him to Shock Trauma.

For some reason, Boonsboro Ambulance medics instead chose to meet the helicopter, which was coming from Frederick, Md., in Myersville, Md., according to the tapes. Some of the conversations on the tapes were garbled.

When the helicopter got to Myersville, more time elapsed while the flight medic worked on Fishell to clear his airway, emergency officials said.

Some emergency workers initially blamed the delay in getting Fishell to the hospital on the fact that Washington County Hospital's Trauma Center closed June 1.

But a review of the record so far indicates there were many factors, Heller said.

"It's not just one person to blame. It may be an error on a lot of people's part," she said. "The bottom line is he jeopardized his own life by using the four-wheeler without a helmet. Unfortunately, it was not very well handled."

Washington County Director of Emergency Services Joe Kroboth said he has reviewed part of the emergency communications tape and has not found any mistakes on the part of dispatchers.

"Everything just happened to be stacked against the patient in this situation," he said.

The Maryland Institute of Emergency Medical Services Systems, which coordinates the statewide trauma response network, plans to look into the incident, said Director Dr. Robert Bass.

Right now, it appears that the medevac helicopter could not have arrived any sooner under the circumstances, he said.

Since the trauma center closed June 1, medevac helicopters were unavailable because of weather or mechanical problems about 8 percent of the time, Kroboth said. Annually, that would amount to 60 patients a year, he said.

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