An investigation has begun into the death of a Northeast man yesterday after relatives said an ambulance did not arrive until about 40 minutes after they first called emergency dispatchers.
Relatives of 38-year-old Mozone Kelly, of 1641 11th Place NE, said that they called for an ambulance three times beginning at 9 a.m. after Kelly began hemorrhaging but that no emergency vehicle arrived until 9:40 a.m. Kelly's brothers, worried about the delay, eventually drove him to D.C. General Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
Fire and ambulance officials said last night that they will review 911 tapes and interview all ambulance employees involved in the calls. Capt. Theodore Holmes, spokesman for the D.C. Fire Department, declined to reveal the exact times an ambulance was dispatched and arrived at Kelly's address. But he said that relatives' account of the calls "sounds about what I was given."
The city's ambulance service was heavily criticized last year for slow response times and sloppy dispatching. In the past year and a half, there have been eight cases in which D.C. ambulances were slow getting to patients who later died, in addition to numerous reports of ambulances that initially were dispatched to incorrect addresses.
Danny Mott, assistant director of the ambulance service, said ambulance service director John Cavenagh will lead the investigation. Mott declined to comment further on the incident.
Kelly's sister, Nancy Oliver, said that one of her brothers first called 911 at 9 a.m. after Kelly, who she said had a blood disease, began bleeding profusely from the mouth and nose. Minutes later, she said, her brother called again and yelled, "We need an ambulance right away."
"Then I called again about 9:07 a.m. and said my brother just became unconscious," Oliver said, "and I gave my address again, and the dispatcher kept saying, 'Ma'am, the ambulance is on the way.' "
Kelly's relatives said they were told by a dispatcher during the second and third calls that an ambulance was "on its way now."
Frustrated by the delay, two of Kelly's brothers carried him to a car about 9:20 a.m. and drove him to D.C. General.
A hospital official said that Kelly arrived in the emergency room at 9:30 a.m. and died shortly after 10 a.m.
The city operates 21 ambulances 24 hours a day. Frank Fishburne, president of Local 3121 of the American Federation of Government Employees, the union representing emergency medical personnel in the District, said last night that ambulance response time is supposed to be "between five and seven minutes."
Fishburne said dispatchers are instructed to send a fire company or paramedics to a call for emergency assistance if it appears that an ambulance may be delayed. "If it took longer than 20 minutes, I just don't understand that," Fishburne said. "I can't see how it could have taken that long."