L.A. Dispatch Errs, 5th Person Dies

Wednesday, September 20th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A man's first emergency call for paramedics drew no response from dispatchers, and by the time a second call brought help his friend had died, the fifth death linked to dispatch errors this year.

Fire Chief William R. Bamattre expressed concern Tuesday that such a breakdown could occur only weeks after he had sent a clear message to dispatchers and their supervisors to shape up.

An internal report in July cited four cases earlier this year in which dispatchers had failed to ask scripted questions to determine proper medical responses.

In the latest case, it took two phone calls and nearly 20 minutes before paramedics arrived at the home of Robert Shaw and Elaina Marie Vescio on Aug. 22. When they got there, the 49-year-old woman was dead after apparently suffering a heart attack, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

``I don't think anyone took me seriously,'' said Shaw, 42.

Dispatchers made key errors in handling Shaw's calls, the Times said. The first dispatcher had left his post at the end of a shift without sending Shaw's information to a radio operator, and a dispatcher who replaced him erased a record of the call.

Department sources say two dispatchers involved in Shaw's calls were reprimanded, the Times said. One had been counseled for errors in a previous case in which a death occurred.

The chief stressed that the cases involving mistakes were only a small fraction of the more than 275,000 emergency medical calls handled by dispatchers in a one-year period.