Man dies after 911 dispatcher tells him to walk to ambulance

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania officials are changing how emergency calls are handled after a man died waiting for an ambulance during a snowstorm despite repeated 911 calls.

Public Safety Director Michael Huss apologized Tuesday to relatives of Curtis Mitchell, 50.

Mitchell and his wife, Sharon Edge, started calling 911 on February 5 when a storm dumped two feet of snow on the city.

Mitchell was experiencing severe stomach pain.

Edge said emergency workers asked the couple if they could walk four blocks to reach the ambulance, but Mitchell was in too much pain.

He died two days later.

“It’s unacceptable, it has to change,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

Huss agreed the handling of the situation was “unacceptable.”

He said EMS protocol is going to change so that every call will now have a first responder arriving at the person’s door.

“I am deeply disappointed. I am angry and more importantly, I am sad that this event has occurred,” said Huss.

“I can’t accept their apology,” said Edge.

When the first ambulance arrived, dispatchers said it couldn’t make it to the couple’s home because of the heavy snow.

Edge said the dispatcher asked her to walk her husband to the ambulance, which was parked nearby.

“You get out of the damn truck and you walk to the residence. That’s what needed to happen here,” said Huss.

Edge said she feels the emergency crew could have walked down to her house.

Huss said beginning Wednesday, 911 will dispatch firefighters as first responders on high priority calls.

Edge said the changes may save lives in the future, but nothing will bring back her husband.

“Someone should be held responsible. The paramedic or the city. Someone has to be held responsible,” said Edge.

Huss said the city is working to get the 911-system set up to take a caller’s history into account.

He said it will change, but it’ll take time.

Ravenstahl said he is reviewing whether there will be any disciplinary action taken against the ambulance crew.

Robert McCaughan, chief of the Bureau of EMS, issued the following statement:

“We are critically reviewing all aspects of this call to identify areas of potential improvement and are dedicated to making whatever changes may be necessary to improve the overall delivery of our service. We extend our deepest condolences to the family in the loss of their loved one.”