On May 25, 2018, Dunwoody police officers responded to a gas station on Chamblee Dunwoody Road just after 3 in the morning on a report of a suspicious person.
When the officers arrived, they found a 33-year-old man loitering around the gas station and rambling deliriously about a black mushy bag in the woods that was making noises.
“There’s a black bag down on the right, like right outside the room, it’s real mushy, it kind of freaked me out, 'cause as soon as I seen it I started hearing noises in the woods,” the man said.
The officers were wearing body cameras which captured their encounter. They soon realized after talking with the man that he had walked from Buckhead to the area. He mentioned he’d used crack cocaine and had a drug addiction. He told them that he was nauseated and his head hurt.
On the video, officers suspected he was possibly schizophrenic due to his delusional ramblings. One officer could be heard saying, “He’s probably hallucinating from the drug use.”
The man wanted an ambulance to take him to Northside Hospital, where he would voluntarily check himself into a detox program.
AMR, the contracted ambulance company for DeKalb County, was called to transport the man. One officer was heard on video telling the man, “AMR is on their way.”
Another officer can be heard saying: “He won’t stop talking about this black mushy bag.”
Frustration began to set in after 30 minutes passed and AMR had not yet arrived. Officers could be heard on the body cameras chatting amongst each other.
“This AMR has gotten so bad.”
“Hey, we’re still waiting on AMR. This is two times in one night it’s got to be at least 30 minutes.” One exasperated comment: “Their extended ETA is extended, extended!”
“Supposedly they’re (AMR) in the area attempting to locate but I don’t know how it’s that hard.”
Almost 40 minutes into the recording, Dunwoody police officers got the green light to transport the man to the hospital in the police SUV after AMR was a no-show. They searched the man to make sure he didn't have a weapon. He had a rock in his pocket. He was placed in the back of the SUV.
42 minutes into the taping, the officer said, “AMR they’re still not on scene en route, one male to Northside Hospital, starting mileage is 50,037.”
On the way to the hospital, the officer could be heard saying: “A tow truck is required to be there within 20 minutes. I don’t know how an ambulance should be any different. Shouldn’t be, not at this time of night.”
49 minutes into the taping, the man was dropped off at the front door of the emergency room.
Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan was not pleased. He said his officers showed their frustration on the police body camera video and says that it’s understandable. I asked him if his officers should be put in that type of situation.
“No, certainly not, our job is to respond to different calls, to be available, investigate crime and certainly transporting people to the hospital is not our primary responsibility. We have a failure happening with our ambulance response right now.”
Dunwoody City Councilman Terry Nall weighed in on this latest debacle involving AMR. He didn’t mince words. “A no-show is even more problematic than a late response. Both situations result in a trickle-down lapse of public safety impacts as police and fire responders are tied up and unavailable for their next public safety call from other residents and visitors.”
Nall further said, "What makes a no-show worse is it leaves the police officer in the untenable situation of having to transport a patient when the police officers and vehicles are not equipped to handle patient transport. No patient or police officer should be left in a no-show situation, such as this."
Channel 2 investigative reporter Wendy Halloran has reported extensively on AMR's troubles for not meeting response times of just under nine minutes. Records show AMR has been fined more than 1.5 million dollars by DeKalb County for not meeting its contractual agreement when it comes to response times. But AMR has not paid those fines and is disputing them.
The director of operations at American Medical Response sent Channel 2 Action News the following statement:
"I’m following up on your inquiry – Terence has been on vacation over the holiday. As you know, the story you reported on took place over a month ago on May 25, 2018. To clarify, AMR dispatched an ambulance unit to respond to this call immediately, but we were not provided with a physical address or an accurate location.
Despite multiple attempts to confirm the physical address and locate the patient, we were not provided with the necessary information and the ambulance unit was put back into service to respond to other emergency calls. We looked into this matter thoroughly and filed a full report with DeKalb County Fire and Rescue on May 30, 2018."
- Rick Ornelas
DeKalb County issued the following statement to Channel 2 investigative reporter Wendy Halloran in response to her story:
“DeKalb County is working diligently to address concerns with AMR’s response times. The current contract ends Dec. 31, 2018, and DeKalb County is preparing to issue a request for proposals for the future delivery of ambulance transport services. DeKalb County has hired a consultant to evaluate its ambulance transport services and make recommendations for best practices for its emergency medical system.
After reaching a May 29, 2018, agreement with DeKalb County, AMR assigned an additional unit to the fire station located in Stonecrest and one unit in Dunwoody, as well as added an average of six units to the overall daily deployment.
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