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County manager finally responds to EMS delays

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County manager finally responds to EMS delays

By Matt Grant. CREATED Feb 20, 2013

NAPLES, Fla. - A Fox 4 investigation sparking changes at Collier County EMS.

After two weeks of waiting, we're finally able to take your questions about ambulance response times directly to Collier County Manager Leo Ochs.

Ochs was all smiles and welcomed us into his office but told the Minard family they were not allowed to sit in on our interview.

"I guess it's because I'm pushing for accountability," said Charles Minard. "Somebody's got to be held accountable for this."

Minard has been fighting for answers since his son died last December. Records show an ambulance crew waited 5-6 minutes before leaving the station because the alarm, pagers and hand-held tablets meant to notify the crew of calls all failed.

Recordings confirm the dispatch did go through over the radio but the crew didn't hear it. According to documents, the crew was in separate areas of the station vacuuming at the time.

"I take these things very seriously," said Ochs. "Particularly when public safety's involved."

Because of our investigation, the county manager says EMS crews are now required to confirm they're on their way when they get a call.

"We think that might be helpful to dispatch and certainly to us," said Ochs, "if we could acknowledge the first dispatch as soon as we receive it."

The Minard's case also prompted the sheriff's office to create an audible tone alerting dispatchers if an ambulance crew doesn't respond after two minutes. County protocol requires dispatchers to call a station if they don't respond after two minutes.

In this case, the dispatcher waited four because they didn't see the flashing red warning light.

Ochs says they are also doing a forensic analysis of all communication equipment.

"To make sure that if there are any dead spots in our transmission areas or any other upgrades that need to be made to the transmission," said Ochs, "or the backbone of the system that those are made."

A Fox 4 investigation found what happened to the Minard's may not have been an isolated case. This week a man said he nearly died in 2010 because an ambulance 2 miles away took 40 minutes to arrive.

A review of 14,000 call logs over the last six months shows nearly two dozen cases where response times exceeded 30 minutes including one call that took an hour.

"For some of these delays we've been seeing," said Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant, "how much of this falls on you?"

"Well it all falls on me," admitted Ochs. "Ultimately, I'm accountable for the performance of my agency and that includes EMS."

So why did it take us nearly a month to hear back from anyone?

"There's no excuse for anybody ignoring a request for information," said Ochs. "I would say that's not the way we want to respond."

But he is responding now promising changes will be made.

"We're not perfect. We're human beings," said Ochs. "Sometimes, things happen that need to get corrected."

Matt Grant
mgrant@fox4now.com