STRUTHERS, Ohio (WKBN) – Last week, police trying to help a man in Struthers were told he would have to wait 30 minutes for an ambulance. Now many want to know why an emergency response would take that long.
“I was kind of taken aback with the amount of time that went by with no ambulances available,” said Struthers Mayor Terry Stocker.
About a week ago, a viewer sent in a Report It about the man. Two police officers found him passed out on the side of Lowellville Road on March 19.
They put a call out to six different ambulance companies, but none were available. The officers called again a few minutes later and one of the EMTs told them it would be another half hour before an ambulance would be able to come.
So they drove the man to St. Elizabeth’s themselves in their patrol car.
“It’s not the ideal situation but in an emergency situation, I think the gentleman did the right thing,” said Chief Randall Pugh, with Lane LifeTRANS Paramedics.
For a city that typically responds quickly to emergencies, why would it have taken so long?
Pugh said the high volume of heroin overdoses dominates much of their time.
Struthers Fire Chief Gary Mudryk agrees.
“You’d see one or two heroin overdoses a year. Now you can see ten a month,” he said.
Pugh said they take about 80 calls a day.
“If we’re busy, the hospitals are busy.”
Occasionally, hospitals will go on “diversion,” which is when they are too full to take any more patients and tell ambulances to go to another hospital for the next two hours.
“A polite way of telling us, ‘We’re full, try to take them somewhere else,'” Pugh said.
When asked how often that happens, he said it happened three times in the 12 hours before his interview with WKBN.
Despite the busyness, Pugh said having to wait half an hour for an ambulance is unusual. The average response time is under ten minutes.
Another explanation for the delay that day was several cases of the flu.