Indiana state senator Patricia Miller has proposed legislation that would require nursing homes to call the nearest medical emergency team to respond in urgent situations. The proposed legislation, Indiana Senate Bill 0224, is in response to news coverage last year regarding the untimely death of Barbara Parcel, who was a victim of her nursing home’s policy to only use their contracted EMS service and not the closest. In its investigative report, Indianapolis News Channel WTHR’s 13 Investigates team reported that on March 5, 2011 Barbara, a resident at Kindred Healthcare’s Wildwood Healthcare, began to show signs of suffering a heart-attack. Yet emergency 911 services were not contacted by the nursing home, rather the first call went to private ambulance service Care Ambulance. At the time, Care’s crew for the westside was unavailable so they scrambled to use a crew from their Indianapolis downtown location, increasing the response time by over 20 minutes. By the time Barbara arrived at the nearest local hospital it was too late to save her.
In response to the initial report, other Indiana families with nursing home residents have come forward to tell of similar experiences. In a followup story, WTHR 13 Investigates reported that Wanda Thurman’s husband was left for hours when the Kindred Healthcare’s Greenfield facility not only did not call 911 after he was found slumped over in a chair, but put their private ambulance company on hold. It wasn’t until Wanda called the ambulance company herself that he was finally taken to the hospital, where he died from intestinal bleeding.
Rick Archer of Indiana’s Emergency Medical Services Commission told investigators at the time that there was no requirement at the state level mandating that you have to send the closest ambulance. Archer confirmed with 13 Investigates that nursing homes for years have been calling their hired ambulance services in life and death situations whether those crews were the closest or not. He went on to comment that a potential reason for doing so is to avoid distruption to other residents that multiple responders might create. The new proposed legislation will now create the much needed mandate, and help to ensure that nursing homes put patient safety ahead of their own profits. The bill has progressed through the house and now awaits final passage in the state Senate.
Click here to read the WTHR Investigative reports: