Tuesday, March 23, 2010
The Pittsburgh Mayor’s office says it will meet with reporters later today to talk about discipline of a handful of Emergency Medical Service personnel. The EMS workers were involved in the so called "Mitchell Incident" where emergency crews did not get treatment to a Hazelwood man who was apparently having a heart attack. During the Feb 5th and 6th snow storm that blanketed the city with more than a foot and a half of snow, callers at 5161 Chaplin Way called 9-1-1 several times over two days (Feb. 6th and 7th) trying to get help for 50 year old Curtis Mitchell who was experiencing chest pains. Due to snow delays and 9-1-1 dispatchers redirecting EMS crews, no EMS personnel reached the Mitchell home and Curtis Mitchell eventually died. The scenario played out over 30 hours. Department of Health Deputy Secretary Michael Huff says the Department’s Bureau of Emergency Medical Services has completed a review of the Pittsburgh Emergency Medical Service response and found the EMS crews did not violate state protocols. The review found that while the EMS providers where not to blame there were “significant systemic gaps in the system that need to be addressed.” Huff says the city needs to review its capacity and compare it to its needs during a “surge” such as a big snowstorm or other disaster. He says the city then needs to look at how it can muster more resources to deal with gaps created by a surge. He says the state is ready to assist the city in its effort to identify remediation to help fill those gaps. The incident angered Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Michael Huss who in a news conference shortly after the death said the actions of the EMS crews were unacceptable and noted that if you can’t get the EMS truck to the house, “get out of the (expletive) truck and walk up to the door.” Reports show the EMS truck was unable to get any closer to Mitchell's home than a quarter-mile. The state review found that an EMS crew did attempt to walk to the home once but was told toreturn to their truck by 9-1-1 dispatchers. The city has changed its procedures for responding to 9-1-1 medical calls. They are now going to send first responders to all E-0 calls, which is the most serious category that’s usually life-threatening. Fire fighters will now be responding to E-1 calls, which are things like shortness of breath. If any call that is categorized as E-2 does not get a response within 30 minutes, a first responder will come. Huss says the purpose of this is to get someone to a site as quickly as possible. A review similar to the one conducted by the state was performed by the Medical Director of the city's Department of Public Safety and the County's Emergency Operations Center that also found the EMS crews were not at fault but did question how the calls were categorized and how information was passed from one supervisor to the next. At this time the county has no plans to discipline any 9-1-1 employees but a review is still underway.