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Christine Quinn Outraged Over Emergency Response Time After Intern Passes Out During Brooklyn Event

Quinn: 'I Don't Know What In God's Name Could Have Taken So Long'
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (file/credit: CBS 2)

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (file/credit: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — City Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn is demanding answers from Emergency Medical Services after an incident at a press conference Tuesday.

While holding an event in Brooklyn, a City Council intern collapsed, apparently due to heat exhaustion amid the sweltering heat wave currently baking the Big Apple. The heat wave has prompted safety advisories and warnings.

A call was made to 911, but it took nearly 30 minutes for an ambulance to get to the scene in Greenpoint, Quinn said.

“It just took over a half an hour to get to a place where a young girl had fainted, was lying on the street, in sweltering heat,” Quinn said. “Where there were four TV cameras, at least, the Speaker of the City Council, and a Council member. It raises the question of how long it takes to get anywhere else where there aren’t television and aren’t two elected officials. It’s inexcusable. I do not know what caused this delay, I can’t explain it, and I’m going to get to the bottom of it.”

Emergency response time has recently come under scrutiny as the city has rolled out a new 911 system.

“I don’t know what in God’s name could have taken so long to get this ambulance to help this young girl, but you can rest assured I am going to find out because it is just not acceptable,” Quinn said. “Whatever the cause or causes were, it’s going to get fixed.”

Quinn stayed with the intern during the episode, trying to reach Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano without success, and then calling Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, she said.

“Every call for medical assistance is important and ambulance dispatching is prioritized so life-threatening calls — for a choking child, cardiac arrest or chest pains — take precedence over non-life-threatening injuries — where the patient is breathing, alert and communicating,” the FDNY said in a statement. “That was the case here. In addition, the patient was being treated by a police officer who is an EMT, so care was being administered from the moment the incident occurred. The call was appropriately tagged as not being a high-priority, life-threatening call.”

Call volume to 911 has spiked in recent days, averaging about 4,000, an FDNY official told 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa. The average volume is 3,300.

“With a high volume of calls during extreme heat, a call for a non-life-threatening injury with an alert patient being treated by a trained EMT is appropriately not deemed a high priority, which in some cases like this one, means that it takes longer for an ambulance to get to the scene,” the FDNY said in a statement. “But it is critical that life-saving resources be prioritized and used for high-priority, life-threatening incidents.”

After the incident, Quinn met with Cassano and Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway.

“In that meeting, I believe I made it abundantly clear that the Fire Department’s response today was nowhere near satisfactory and was completely unacceptable,” Quinn said.

Quinn said the city needs more ambulances and personnel, but got no firm commitment that that would happen, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported.

Fellow mayoral candidate and current city Comptroller John Liu took issue with the response time.

“The truth is the 911 headquarters is understaffed and the operators are overworked. The situation has only gotten worse since the City wasted $1 billion on the dangerously flawed E911 system,” Liu said. “The City can not address problems that are the results of mismanagement, waste, and fraud at 911 by blaming the dispatchers.”

Eventually a fire truck responded and dropped off two EMTs, Quinn said, before a Hatzolah ambulance arrived.

“I was here… just waiting, continuing to say to [the victim] ‘They’ll be here in a minute, they’ll be here in a minute,'” Quinn said. “Because that’s all you can tell somebody who’s lying on the ground in need of medical attention is that they’re going to be here in a minute.  ‘Cause I can’t really say to her they’re going to be here in half an hour because that is going to panic her.”

Quinn identified the victim as “Yvette,” saying she was an 18-year-old intern with Council member Diana Reyna’s office.

The woman eventually went home and was resting, Quinn said.

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