In the midst of a chaotic day of repeated 911 glitches, an EMS system reboot and a temporary return to pen and paper, it took more than an hour to get an ambulance to a 96-year-old Queens, N.Y., woman.
Too bad someone close to Irene Boylan didn’t have the cell phone numbers for New York’s police and fire commissioners. A relative pushed his way into Boylan’s room at the Calvary Baptist Church Senior Houses in Jamaica just after 1 p.m. on Monday and found the woman facedown between two beds. A staff member called 911 at 1:17 p.m. to request an ambulance for the woman, who fell and “was unable to get up,” records show.
But an ambulance didn’t arrive until 2:27 p.m., a wait of an hour and 10 minutes. “How would they feel if it was their mother lying on the floor?” said Doris Crutch, 71, the wife of Boylan’s nephew. “What if it was their wife, their mother, their grandmother, their sister?”
Last week, there was a 33-minute delay in getting an ambulance to an intern who collapsed before an event with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Quinn called Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly on their cell phones before the job was upgraded to a priority. “These politicians, they’re just in it for the money,” Crutch said Monday. “Quinn and Kelly don’t care. (Boylan) could have died today . . . She was in danger and nobody came to help.”
The furious family member pointed a finger at the city’s troubled emergency call system. “We’re hearing it was a problem with the 911 system,” Crutch said. “If that’s a problem, they need to do something about it.” Boylan was taken to Jamaica Hospital, where she underwent tests. She was hooked up to an IV, unable to speak and sporting a neck brace Monday night.
Records obtained by Daily News show an NYPD operator initially classified the job as a “sick” call, which is a low priority. Staff at the home for seniors made repeated calls to 911 demanding to know where the ambulance was, said Jones Butler, 69, a neighbor of Boylan’s. “I called 911; I said, ‘Don’t wait, send an ambulance.’ They said the system was down.”
At 2:18 p.m., according to NYPD logs, someone at Calvary called again to report the woman was “possibly unconscious.” At that point, the 911 operator upgraded the call to a higher priority, and the operator reminded an Emergency Medical Service dispatcher that the woman had been “awaiting EMS for one hour.” Fire officials disputed that time line — despite city records — and said the call was upgraded to a priority at 2:22 p.m. They said an ambulance arrived within five minutes. Neither police nor fire officials could explain the four-minute discrepancy between the NYPD and FDNY accounts.
“It should never take more than an hour for an ambulance whether it’s a low priority or not,” a dispatcher said.
On Monday, the FDNY’s EMS dispatching system crashed over and over again. For at least 90 minutes throughout the day, 911 operators were forced to go back to pen and paper as their computers failed, fire officials said. The dispatching system went down at least six times between 7:45 a.m. and 6 p.m., sources said.
Technicians planned to take down the FDNY’s computer-aided dispatching system at 8:30 p.m., officials said. The city’s been plagued with computer problems in its 911 call center since it installed new dispatching software. Mayor Bloomberg has dismissed the problems as “bugs.”