Archive for Thursday, August 12, 2004

State medical board reviewing EMS case

Local woman says EMS negligence contributed to mother’s death

August 12, 2004

A Basehor resident said the recent action of a state medical board is the "first step" in producing long-lasting change in procedures to ambulance services in Leavenworth County.

Tammy Potts has brought a case before the investigations committee of the state board of emergency medical services. On Thursday, committee members directed lawyers from the Kansas Attorney General's office to research legal aspects of durable power of attorney and guardianship rights.

State officials said the determination of the committee could have ripple effects statewide not only for ambulance services but also for patients and family members entrusted with their care.

Potts has two complaints pending against Leavenworth County Emergency Medical Service, both of which stem from failures by the service to transport her mother, Alene Wilson of Basehor, in 2003. The failure by the county's EMS service to transport her mother contributed to her death in December of that year, Potts said.

Potts, who possessed durable power of attorney documents that were prepared so she could make financial and medical decisions for her mother, claims EMS attendants ignored her wishes that Wilson be transported to the hospital for treatment of a broken hip. EMS attendants ignored the wish because Wilson, whom they deemed competent at the scene, told them she didn't want to be transported.

Hospital assessments indicate Wilson suffered from dementia and hallucinations.

A crowd of EMS attendants and others in the medical profession crammed into the room for the investigation's committee meeting last week. The board delayed its decision until their next meeting, Sept. 30.

Jerry Cunningham, a state EMS board investigator, said EMS attendants and others in the medical profession are listening closely for the investigation committee's decision.

"I'm sure this case was being reviewed with high interest partially because the outcome could affect all the ambulance services in the state," Cunningham said. He added that the issues raised by Potts are uncharted territory for the board and EMS services.

"The laws that govern EMS don't cover this," he said. "The current regulations simply do not address DPA's or guardianship.

"There's really no laws or guidelines -- there's nothing."

Potts, who has not hired an attorney, presented her side of the case Thursday in Topeka. Representatives of Leavenworth County EMS did not address the board.

Potts said she's encouraged by the board's decision to review the DPA procedure but is by no means satisfied enough to withdraw her bid to have the certification of Leavenworth County's EMS service revoked.

"It's important the protocol be changed so the next time someone will respect (a DPA) for what it is," Potts said. "There has to be a standard.

"That the disciplinary issue hasn't been addressed yet really bothers me. A verbal reprimand, to me, is a slap on the wrist."

Cunningham said the state board has yet to take disciplinary action against Leavenworth County's EMS service. Any possible action would pend on the board's final decision.

Potts said paramedics at the scene of her mother's home in 2003 didn't read the DPA order and shoved the paperwork back in her face when she attempted to show them the orders.

Potts said one of the EMS board members called the case an example of"amateur hour" during the hearing last week, a sentiment she wholeheartedly agrees with.

After EMS attendants left the 68-year-old Wilson at home with a broken hip, Potts and family members scrambled to find alternative means of health care or transportation to the hospital. Finally, after hours of searching, Potts was able to locate and purchase a wheelchair she could use to move her mother.

Wilson arrived at the hospital 17 hours after her fall. Potts transported her mother to the hospital by mini-van. They were greeted at the hospital by one of the EMS attendants who failed to transport Wilson. He told Wilson "maybe next time you'll take the easier route," Potts said.

Days passed before doctors could operate on Wilson. She was released from the hospital on Dec. 3 and was taken home the same way she arrived -- by her daughter's mini-van -- because for the second time Leavenworth County EMS failed to respond to the call for transport.

Wilson died Dec. 6 from pneumonia, one of the side effects from a broken hip and caused by prolonged immobility.

Potts said she's eager to learn of the board's decision so that her mother's death won't be in vain and that the failures of Leavenworth County EMS won't harm any future patients.

"The first goal has always been to change how they handle things," she said. "That's what we're looking for. They should have listened to me, but worse they should have used common sense."

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