Missing: Angles from story about man dying while awaiting ambulance

A media outlet — be it newspaper, radio, TV or Internet — may sometimes find it pays off to get scooped.

It was something I found distasteful when ink ran through my arteries, to have another news purveyor break a good story. It was also something I tried, at least on whatever beat I was working, not to let happen. But when you have a story that is a relative deep, dark question pit one may have to let the competition jones go for a bit until some mysteries can be solved. A story that is sure to raise some hackles in my neck of the woods is a fine example.

A  man in described by police as “mentally challenged” in Kirbyville, Texas, died of an apparent heart attack while waiting some 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive, according to local news outlets. Kirbyville is about 40 miles north of where I live. The ambulance that finally arrived came from Silsbee, about 30 miles away, and belonged to a company that does not even regularly operate in that area.

Now someone waiting on an ambulance for 20-30 minutes is a long time in a city or most suburban areas. However, I am sure there are rural areas in certain parts of the country, even in particular portions of Texas which have to wait even longer. So even though the long “wait” is being focused upon by the local media — and I am not being critical here, rather I am thinking out loud — there are a lot of questions which need answering to make this a much more meaningful story:

1. The story states the Kirbyville chief of police and another person performed CPR on the man before the ambulance arrived. Does Kirbyville have a crew of trained and adequately equipped first responders? I think I know the answer but I’m not sure. I think there are a couple of  volunteer fire departments nearby but how many do first response on medical emergencies? If any do, where were they?

2. Jasper, a city of almost 7,500, is about 20 miles north of Kirbyville. They have at least one ambulance service, or at least they did. How many EMS vehicles are based in Jasper and were they all busy at the time? I don’t know. I wish someone would find out.

3. Was the company operating the ambulance that picked up the victim indeed not operating in its regular area? I’m not so sure about that since it reportedly was an Acadian EMS ambulance and this article says that Acadian was assuming operation of Priority One EMS in Silsbee. The latter company had an air ambulance last time I drove by their headquarters. The former owners of Priority One were recently convicted in federal court on charges of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and mail fraud, having bilked Medicare, Medicaid, Blue Cross and Blue Shield out of  almost $1.75 million, by the way.

4. The heart attack reportedly happened at that area’s mental health facility. Does that facility not have a defibrilator? Are they supposed to have one? I don’t know. I’m just saying …

From what I can gather with these sketchy details of the story, the Kirbyville chief of police sounds as if he did quite a job to help that man and deserves praise for his efforts. Perhaps his city might reward him by buying him a defibrillator for his car, at the very least.

Yes, there are a lot of questions remaining, even though tongues are, figuratively, wagging over the length of time it took for an ambulance to reach the victim. But there are plenty of answers still waiting to be discovered such as why weren’t first responders there within a decent time interval with the equipment and drugs that might have kept the man alive and stable? I will leave this up to the local media to answer these questions since I don’t have time, nor do I foresee anyone paying me to solve these puzzles.