PUNTA GORDA, Fla. - A Fox 4 investigation is uncovering new problems surrounding ambulance response times in Collier County.
A communication break down last December resulted in a Collier EMS crew waiting 5-6 minutes before ever leaving the station while a Naples man lay dying. We now know that wasn't an isolated incident.
Our investigation found the county is apparently keeping inconsistent records - in some cases leaving out the time EMS crews arrive at a patient's home.
In Charlotte County, it's standard practice to log everything during an EMS call from the moment help leaves to the moment it arrives.
"We keep times on everything," said Charlotte EMS spokeswoman Dee Hawkins-Garland, who says keeping track of how quickly they get to a patient is crucial.
"It's used for quality control, to make sure we are staying within adequate amount of times," said Hawkins-Garland. "It can identify problem areas if there is a problem area."
But Fox 4 has learned that same approach to record keeping doesn't appear to be happening in Collier County.
Last month we requested response times for the past six months in Collier County, including the time crews arrived to the patient. We found more than 1000 cases where EMS crews took longer than 10 minutes to arrive and two dozen where it took more than 30 minutes.
We picked the 30 of some of the longest times and requested further information.
The county sent us a new record explaining that the times were for when the ambulance arrived at the hospital not the patient's home.
"The program used by the county captured the hospital arrival time," the county's attorney told us, "not the arrival time on scene, if the scene arrival time was not available."
That appears to show the county may not be keeping consistent records. In some cases, Collier EMS did log what time they arrived at a patient's home. One call notes "treatment documented" at 2:49pm.
Records also show the exact time an ambulance crew arrived to help a Naples man, Charles Minard's, dying son last December. Fox 4 discovered EMS crews waited 5-6 minutes after being dispatched to Minard's home because they never heard the call.
New records now show the same thing happened in a separate case less than a week before. Documents show a delay on Dec. 8 happened because the crew "did not receive the initial page."
Fox 4 reached out to Collier County EMS for clarification about their record keeping but never heard back.
"Thorough records are really necessary," said Hawkins-Garland. "The documentation serves a lot of different purposes."
Hawkins-Garland says while she can't comment on Collier's record keeping, she feels it is important to document everything.
"It's been a regular practice at Charlotte County EMS to document times and keep track for quality assurance," she said, "to insure that we're providing the best service we possibly can."
Charlotte County uses patient arrival times to keep track of how they're doing and self-evaluate response times.
They also log the distance in miles to a patient's address so they can look back and see if distance factored into delays - another record Collier County admits they don't track.
Collier County response
Please understand that the program used by the County captured the hospital arrival time, not the arrival time on scene, if the scene arrival time was not available. Also note that in the normal course of business, the County’s program does not record or capture the distance in miles from the medic station to the scene or location of the patient, nor does it use “medic numbers.” As to the nature of the call, those records reveal medical information that could be traced to the patient and is therefore exempt.