Employees at Tulsa company say their experience waiting on ambulance shows flaw in the system

Posted at 8:49 PM, Jul 12, 2017

TULSA - The employees at Chart Cooler Services work long hours in tough conditions, so Monday when one of their men went down, everyone jumped into action. 

“They came in and said we have an employee who had over 106 pulse rate, and he’s complaining of chest pains and numbness on his left side," said Health, Safety and Environmental Supervisor Josh Hathaway. 

Worried the man was having a heart attack, he called 911. 

“They answered, and they said either 'fire, medical or police' and I said medical. So then they transferred me and it rang about ten times before someone answered."

That call took two minutes and thirty-two seconds.

Hathaway said there were at least fifteen other employees standing from the entrance, all the way to the driveway the man was sitting in to show EMSA where to find their co-worker that so desperately needed help. 

“We were getting him as comfortable as possible and started waiting and nothing had came, couldn’t hear any sirens.”

Josh called again. 

“When I called this time they said please hold and just placed me on hold.”

“The safety manager’s like, they put me on hold. I’m like, what? Put you on hold?!” said HR Manager Susan Davis. 

After talking to Josh, she panicked. 

“Then we just waited, and waited, and waited for EMSA," she said. 

EMSA wasn't available for an interview, but took 2 Works for You's phone call. 

Spokeswoman Kelli Bruer explained how they classify the calls they receive from the city's 911 call center. 

She says they're either priority one or two. 

Priority one calls are life-threatening and priority two calls are not. 

EMSA standards throughout the state are to respond to priority one calls in 10 minutes and 59 seconds, and priority two calls in 24 minutes and 59 seconds, at least 90 percent of the time. 

She says this call was first determined to be priority two. 

However, after the fire department arrived EMSA said they received a call from firefighters upgrading the call to priority one. 

“We almost could’ve run over there and got them as fast as they got here," Susan said. 

EMSA also sent 2 Works for You this statement: 

“We always strive to make sure every patient is attended to in the required amount of time and with the best treatment we can provide. Many things can influence how we classify and respond to a 911 call, including the amount of time that we are required to respond. We are mandated to make these required times for 90% of all 911 calls each month, and consistently meet or exceed this. In this instance, we were initially required to respond within 24 minutes and 59 seconds. We arrived in 28 minutes. While we strive for every call to be perfect, we know that we will not always be 100% on time, every time.”

“These employees need to know if something happens to them they’re going to be taken care of. And that’s what I feel like when I call EMSA. I want them here now," Susan said. 

Hathaway said they had to call an ambulance again the next day, and while that wait time was shorter, it was still concerning. 

Davis confirmed the employee didn't have a heart attack, but was kept in the hospital for a few days. 

You can review EMSA's monthly response time reports here.

UPDATE: The director of Tulsa's 911 Call Center, Terry O'Malley, provided 2 Works for You the records from the call. 

"In both incidents, the calls were answered quickly for our staffing – this one was 2 seconds to answer by City of Tulsa 911 and 10 seconds to talk and transfer to EMSA.  EMSA call wait time was 34 seconds and 100 seconds of talk time.  The call record shows EMSA was receiving many medical calls at that time," O'Malley stated.

Their records for arrival can only account for the Tulsa Fire Department, and from the time Fire got the call from EMSA, an engine arrived within 3 minutes. 

She explained the 911 Center gets the call and transfers it to the correct department, in this case that was EMSA who handled the rest. 

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