Lack of available ambulances keeps couple in crashed car more than an hour

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By Alice Du Pont

Gadsden County’s ambulances were busier than usual Nov. 17. Between trips to Tallahassee and one out of operations because of a flat tire, the four remaining vehicles were stretched to the limit.

Lois Taylor, 63, suffered a severe asthma attack, according to her son Thomas, at approximately 3:40 p.m., and his sister dialed 911. He said that shortly after he arrived at his mother's home at 802 West Jefferson Street, she was in distress and having difficulty breathing.

"I called 911 at least four or five times after I got there and they kept telling me the ambulance was on the way. I asked if they could send a fireman and they said the firemen were at the scene of an accident right up the street," Taylor said.

When the ambulance arrived at the Taylor home another patient was already in the ambulance. Thomas said he couldn't be sure but the young woman may have been having a miscarriage.

A few blocks west, near the intersection of Pat Thomas Parkway and West Jefferson Street, a two-car collision was slowing traffic to a crawl. The driver of one of the vehicles appeared uninjured and was standing on the sidewalk. The driver of the other car, Lawrence Baker and his passenger, Lillian Simmons, both from Jackson County, sustained neck and possibly back injuries.

While Quincy police and firefighters did what they could to make the injured comfortable, they did not remove them from the car. They waited for the ambulance to arrive, which took more than an hour.

"We're going to have to come up with something to prioritize our calls and we need to have somebody on standby, either in Jackson or Leon county. The cities and the county are going to have to come together. We're not going to bash anyone but we have to work this thing out," said Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young, who was on the scene about 45 minutes before an ambulance arrived.

Johnny Williams, county administrator, arrived to access the scene and told Young that he would meet with county and EMS staff Nov. 18 to come up with a plan that would avoid similar problems in the future.

"Leaving people waiting for an ambulance this long is unacceptable," Williams said.

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