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Did 911 delays contribute to deaths?

July 26, 2013 3:26:09 PM PDT
Ever since New York's new computer-aided dispatch system went live in May, it has been plagued by technical problems, leading to a waste of precious minutes between when calls are received and responders are notified.

The Mayor's office says the delays are a fabrication by the unions that are resistant to change. Yet, two families recently contacted us convinced it took too long to dispatch an ambulance to their dying sons.

D'Anthony McDonald, with a stab wound in his chest, died in his father's arms while waiting for an ambulance on a street corner in Queens.

"I did everything I could to save my son. I just needed a little help. I didn't get it," Erick Anderson said.

The parents say there was a delay in dispatching emergency medical help, which seems to be backed up by a second-by-second EMS account of the 911 call. It shows the first call came in just before 9:02 the night of June 14th. Nearly two-and-a-half minutes later, the emergency call gets picked up by the EMS dispatcher. That's when an ambulance is dispatched and arrives 10 minutes after the initial call to 911.

"I feel guilty. I should have picked him up and put him in a car because I knew it was too long," Anderson said.

His son died 10 days after the death of little Aerial Russo in which there was a four-minute delay in dispatching an ambulance to that hit-and-run incident.

The Mayor's office says "the call taker did everything right" considering there was a crime in progress in addition to the medical emergency. Part of the delay on the EMS side may have been due to a high volume of calls, the Mayor's office says.

"Robert was our youngest. Very athletic, sports driven," Fred Throo said.

Throo says the dispatch delay in the Russo case is similar to what happened when his 23-year-old son collapsed in a hotel elevator almost two years ago. The only difference, he says, is that it took more than a minute longer for EMS to get to his son.

"I found that disturbing," he said.

Since then he has spent hundreds of hours documenting every detail. Cell phone records show the 911 call was made at 3:41:31 that afternoon. But again it takes nearly 4 minutes for an ambulance to be dispatched. It arrives on the scene almost 10 minutes after the initial call.

By their own account, it was nearly twice the response time. "I agree, and those are precious seconds minutes that are lost," Throo said.

Making the near 10 minute response even harder for the parents to accept is that the hospital where the ambulance was dispatched from was just six blocks away.

"My wife are doing this so that other parents don't have to feel what we feel at this point. There does seem to be a problem," Throo said.

The city denies any systemic delay in dispatching EMS. The mayor's man overseeing the new 911 says it's working well.

"The system reliability and it's availability and the way that it helps us track response time, mapping calls and getting them from point A to point B has been almost flawless," Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway said.

Deputy Mayor Holloway says the response time in both cases was slightly more than the average of nine minutes and 20 seconds for a level one, life threatening call.

The calls he says would have been handled the same under the old system.

The EMS Union says the old set-up was faster in getting emergency calls to their dispatchers.

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