FORT SCOTT, Kan. — For more than 30 minutes, Robert Findley lay unconscious in the back of an ambulance next to Mercy Hospital Fort Scott on a frigid February morning with paramedics hand-pumping oxygen into his lungs. A helipad sat just across the icy parking lot from the hospital’s emergency department, which had recently shuttered its doors, like hundreds of rural hospitals nationwide.
Suspecting an intracerebral hemorrhage and knowing the ER was no longer functioning, the paramedics who had arrived at Findley’s home called for air transport before leaving. For definitive treatment, Findley would need to go to a neurology center located 90 miles north in Kansas City, Mo. The ambulance crew stabilized him as they waited.
But the dispatcher for Air Methods, a private air ambulance company, checked with at least four bases before finding a pilot to accept the flight, according to a 911 tape obtained by Kaiser Health News through a Kansas Open Records Act request.
“My Nevada crew is not available and my Parsons crew has declined,” the operator tells Fort Scott’s emergency line about a minute after taking the call. Then she says she will be “reaching out to” another crew. Nearly seven minutes passed before one was en route.
When Linda Findley sat at her kitchen counter in late May and listened to the 911 tape, she blinked hard: “I didn’t know that they could just refuse. … I don’t know what to say about that.” Both Mercy and Air Methods declined to comment on Findley’s case.
When Mercy Hospital Fort Scott closed at the end of 2018, hospital president Reta Baker had been “absolutely terrified” about the possibility of not having emergency care for a community where she had raised her children and grandchildren and served as chair of the local Chamber of Commerce. Now, just a week after the ER’s closure, her fears were being tested. Read the full article here.