Suit: Late am­bu­lance caused death

Man re­ceived at­ten­tion three hours af­ter 911 call


Alaw­suit filed in Santa Fe last week says a San Miguel County am­bu­lance took 45 min­utes to get to a man who was suf­fer­ing from a deadly stroke, but state of­fi­cials and the head of the am­bu­lance com­pany say the am­bu­lance got to him in less than half that time.

Lawrence Quin­tana, 46, started suf­fer­ing from a stroke the night of Oct 7, 2015, and an am­bu­lance was dis­patched to his res­i­dence, ac­cord­ing to a wrong­ful death suit filed in Santa Fe District Court. A first ve­hi­cle from Su­pe­rior Am­bu­lance, a pri­vate com­pany that has a con­tract with San Miguel County, wasn’t able to find the home, but a sec­ond am­bu­lance was able to find it about 45 min­utes af­ter the ini­tial 911 call was made.

The am­bu­lance got on the ra­dio with Alta Vista Re­gional Hospi­tal in Las Ve­gas, which the suit says “held it­self out” to be a fullser­vice hospi­tal, to alert it about the in­com­ing pa­tient with a pos­si­ble stroke. But the hospi­tal di­verted the am­bu­lance to Santa Fe, which is about 70 miles away. At­tor­ney Crios­toir Cleireachain — who filed the law­suit on be­half of Quin­tana’s per­sonal rep­re­sen­ta­tive, John Howard — didn’t clar­ify why the hospi­tal turned Quin­tana away when reached by phone Wed­nes­day.

Quin­tana ar­rived at Chris­tus St. Vin­cent Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Santa Fe around 2:30 a.m., nearly three hours af­ter the ini­tial 911 call. He died about five days af­ter be­ing ad­mit­ted. “Due to the de­lay in ob­tain­ing hospi­tal treat­ment, Mr. Quin­tana was un­able to re­cover from the med­i­cal in­sult to his brain and body,” the suit says.

The com­plaint names the city of Las Ve­gas, San Miguel County, Su­pe­rior Am­bu­lance,

Alta Vista and the state Depart­ment of Pub­lic Safety as de­fen­dants, claim­ing they were all partly re­spon­si­ble for Quin­tana’s death. Maria Jaramillo, who is de­scribed as Quin­tana’s part­ner in the law­suit, is seek­ing dam­ages for med­i­cal bills, and pain and suf­fer­ing re­lated to Quin­tana’s death.

Su­pe­rior Am­bu­lance CEO Chris Archuleta said Thurs­day that there’s no proof that a first am­bu­lance was dis­patched and couldn’t find Quin­tana’s res­i­dence. He said the am­bu­lance that trans­ported Quin­tana took about 20 min­utes to re­spond, which he said is an ad­e­quate re­sponse time be­cause the home was about 15-20 miles out­side the Las Ve­gas city lim­its.

“We’re still try­ing to re­search a first am­bu­lance, but the sec­ond am­bu­lance re­sponded within the time limit,” Archuleta said. “We don’t even know if there was a first am­bu­lance, and it doesn’t ap­pear that they had an is­sue find­ing the pa­tient’s res­i­dence.”

Am­bu­lance ser­vices are over­seen by the state Pub­lic Reg­u­la­tion Com­mis­sion. Avelino Gu­tier­rez, the PRC trans­porta­tion di­vi­sion di­rec­tor, con­firmed Thurs­day that there was only one am­bu­lance dis­patched to the res­i­dence that night, with a 20-minute re­sponse time. He also said the PRC never got any com­plaints about the in­ci­dent.

Las Ve­gas city govern­ment han­dles emer­gency dispatch du­ties for the city, even though the am­bu­lances are run by a pri­vate com­pany. City spokesman Lee Einer said he couldn’t pro­vide a com­ment about the law­suit Thurs­day.

“Be­cause we only be­came aware of this be­cause of your phone call, the mat­ter is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion and we’re look­ing into the facts,” Einer said.

San Miguel County Com­mis­sioner Rock Ulibarri said it was com­mon for am­bu­lances in the county to have long re­sponse times. “They can get tied up pretty quickly,” he said. “We can prob­a­bly use one or two more am­bu­lances.”

Ulibarri also said it’s typ­i­cal for peo­ple to get turned away from Alta Vista and have to get treat­ment in Santa Fe or Al­bu­querque. He said the com­mis­sion is look­ing into the pos­si­bil­ity of a county-funded hospi­tal that would pro­vide all the med­i­cal ser­vices that can be found in other New Mex­ico cities, but for now the best com­mis­sion­ers can do to ad­vance that plan is to put it to vot­ers in the Novem­ber 2018 elec­tion.

“I think that’s the big­gest way to solve some of our big­gest problems here,” Ulibarri said.

A rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Alta Vista couldn’t be reached Thurs­day.

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