Did EMS delay lead to death?

January 4, 2008 8:50:11 AM PST
A northeast Philadelphia woman died while waiting more than an hour for an ambulance on New Years.It was 2:39 New Year's morning when 55-year-old Deborah Payne called for help from her apartment in the northeast.

No medics were available so the dispatcher sent a fire truck with EMTs onboard. They administered oxygen and called for a backup supply, as they waited over an hour for an ambulance.

The first available came from a fire station in South Philadelphia.

After Payne was loaded into the ambulance, it failed to start.

Another was sent from Cottman Avenue and arrived an hour and 40 minutes after the first call, but, by then, Payne was dead.

"I was shocked to hear it. You call for help and you still die," neighbor Shirley Reilly said.

The building supervisor, Donald Fenemore, who let the firefighters into the apartment has been left shaken.

"It's very sad because she was a very nice lady," Fenemore said.

Less than two weeks ago, a review by the city controller found that city response time to medical emergencies is far worse than the national average. He recommended adding twenty new medic units to the existing 45.

Firefighters say it's a battle they've been waging for years.

"The firefighters, the paramedics, the EMTs did everything they could, but we were limited by the resources we have," Ryan McBride of the Firefighters Local 22 said.

Commissioner Lloyd Ayers says this is a tragic and disturbing episode and he agrees the department needs more resources. A firefigther's union is hoping this is a wakeup call for city council and Michael Nutter, the new mayor next week.