In today's New York Post, a 911 operator gives a brutally honest an in-depth look as to what it's like working as a 911 dispatch operator in one of the busiest emergency call centers in the country.
It's eye-opening. It's unnerving. It's actually shocking.
When the system freezes up, they have to reboot their computers, wait minutes and in the meantime revert to pen and paper. According to the article, the system crashed nine times last week alone.
"They throw slips of paper at you. You have to make sure the information goes in the right spot on the forms. It’s so time-consuming. You have to jot down what the caller tells you, the address verification, the cross streets, the nature of the call, the codes — cardiac, crime in progress, bomb threat."
Here is one awful thought: What happens if, because of the system crashing, emergency medical services are delayed to a caller who expects prompt service?
"How many lives can you lose in a minute? Sometimes we get it wrong, too. Once the address an operator thought she heard was for the wrong borough. A baby wasn’t breathing. The baby died."
One of the most important functions a municipality has is in providing emergency medical services. The citizens of our great city rely on police and fire to help them in their time of need. What happens though when those lines of communication between a caller desperately needing help are not transmitted in a timely fashion?
What happens if someone's health deteriorates significantly because of a delay in reaching qualified emergency medical services?
More importantly what happens if someone dies as a result of the delay caused by the screw-up?
Is there a valid basis to proceed forward with a negligence claim or a medical malpractice claim here in New York?
To answer that question, it's important to know exactly what the medical condition was and how medical condition was made worse as a result of the delay.
If the patient in distress died, one of the key ways that we prove how the delay in treatment made a difference is with information contained in the autopsy report to explain why the patient died.
An autopsy is an examination of a person's body after they have died. It is commonly done by a pathologist; a medical doctor who looks to see what the cause of death was.
Family members who are searching for answers often do not realize that an autopsy report can be a double-edged sword. Those looking to point blame at the FDNY, the 911 dispatch operator, or a delayed ambulance may soon realize that their loved one died from events unrelated to the delay.
On the other hand, there are instances where a delay of only minutes made the difference between life and death.
In order to prove that we are more likely right than wrong in a negligence case or even a medical malpractice case, we will need qualified medical experts such as a pathologist to explain how the delay in treatment exacerbated, made worse or made a significant difference with the patient's outcome.
The City of New York and the FDNY needs to address this significant problem immediately.
The lives of everyone who calls in seeking emergency assistance is on the line. Whether someone needs police assistance or emergency medical services and an ambulance to the closest emergency room, the failure to communicate information immediately and in a timely fashion can result in delays that can have life altering consequences.
We live in the greatest city in the world. Our 911 emergency call centers should run smoothly and efficiently. This article clearly shows there are inherent systemic problems that don't seem to be going away anytime soon. That's a problem for all people who live, work and visit the city of New York and five boroughs.