Football coach calls foul on ambulance response time - WNEM TV 5

Football coach calls foul on ambulance response time

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FLINT, MI (WNEM) -

This past Friday night, the bright lights lit up Lake Fenton's football stadium.  Flint Beecher was in town. But after a play in the third quarter, Beecher coach Courtney Hawkins said his heart dropped when he saw one of his linemen lying on the ground.

"The trainer immediately did what a trainer does, went to work on him, and determined he needed to be immobilized," said Hawkins.

Hawkins asked Lake Fenton Athletic Director Tony Simmons to call 911.  Simmons explained the situation to the operator.

"He's 16 years old," Simmons said during the 911 call.

"Is he able to respond to you, is he conscious?" asked the operator.

"Yes, he's conscious," said Simmons.

"Is he having any trouble breathing?" asked the operator.

"No trouble breathing at this time," responded Simmons.

After the initial call, the operator put out the call to Stat EMS, an ambulance service that covers Genesee County.  While waiting for the ambulance, the training staff continued to tend to the player.  But after a while, at least two more 911 calls came into dispatch.

"We need an ambulance out here, I don't know what the hold up is or why it's not here, but it's taking an awfully long time," said one caller.

"Hey, do you have an ambulance coming to Fenton High School for a player injured?" a second caller, who identified himself as a police officer asked dispatchers.

"Yeah, we're trying to figure what partner's calling right now, trying to figure out where they're at because we called them a while ago," replied the dispatcher.

"20-some minutes ago, yeah," said the caller.

Hawkins said after what seemed to be an eternity, the ambulance casually pulled up.

"EMS took a long time to get there, something like 45 minutes this kid laid on the turf, and the trainers continued to hold his neck in place just for safety reasons, really not knowing," Hawkins said.

So why in the world so long?  TV5 took the tough question to Stat EMS Chief Operating Officer Joseph Karlichek.

"We did what we believe was the best response possible," said Karlichek.

Karlichek said his crew got the call from Genesee County Central Dispatch coded as a 'Tier two' response.  That is interpreted in the field as not a life-threatening emergency.

"We were not in the position to speed, we can't speed, we cannot engage lights and sirens on a 'tier two,'" said Karlichek.

Karlichek said 45 minutes is a long time, but he believes that might also count the time the player went down and when the training staff checked him out.

He told TV5 on Wednesday night he reviewed the situation and his logs show it took 17 minutes for his crews to leave and show up at the field as a tier two call, which he called acceptable.

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