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‘You can’t check behind every snow bank': CEO defends medics after patient’s death

Curtis Ambulance official defends Milwaukee medics for not getting out of ambulance to look for patient

Editor’s note: How long should providers look for a patient they can’t locate? Weigh in below.

By Bill Carey

MILWAUKEE — Officials from the Milwaukee Fire Department and Curtis Ambulance said snowbanks and other items blocked paramedics’ view of a fallen person and that the paramedics did nothing wrong in relation to the person’s death.

Details of the Jan. 15 incident when 49-year-old Jolene Waldref fell and dialed 911 were presented to the public on Jan. 31, FOX 6 reported.

When Waldref fell and struck her head on a gate, she dialed 911 at 5:22 p.m., WPR reported. Fire department officials stated they received the call from Waldref and Curtis Ambulance responded to the scene. The paramedics did not get out of the ambulance but said they checked all four corners of the intersection and did not see Waldref.

The paramedics were on the scene for six minutes before responding to another call.

Twenty minutes later, a person noticed Waldref and called 911. At 5:52 p.m., firefighters and paramedics arrived but were unable to revive Waldref.

“What we were able to find is that going through the intersection, you have two sheltered bus stops that are on that southwest and southeast corner, and then two unsheltered bus stops on the on the other side of the intersection,” Curtis Ambulance Vice President Daniel Borkowski said. “Going through them, they actually paid attention to the sheltered ones first coming back the other way, heading westbound on Congress between. A giant silver, silver electrical box that’s sitting there. The garbage can is full of salt for, I’m assuming the sidewalks and stuff and snow that is still piled up in the intersection. Traffic and lighting at 738. Our best guess is that the crew was unable to see anybody that was in that sidewalk or fence area.”

WPR reported that Milwaukee Fire Department Assistant Chief Joshua Parish said the fighters found Waldref behind snow banks near a corner of the intersection.

Curtis Ambulance CEO James Baker defended the actions of his paramedics, who he said responded to the call within 4 minutes after they received a low-priority call from dispatchers.

“You can’t check behind every snow bank, you can’t check behind every walk-down alley,” Baker said. “You do the best you can.”