ABC11 I-Team investigates lack of emergency services in Granville County

Whistleblower says EMS system so short-staffed some emergency stations have had to shut down.
February 26, 2014 2:59:08 PM PST
Mike D'Haene has spent 33 years working in emergency medical services, first in the Navy, and now as a North Carolina paramedic. He says he contacted the I-Team because he's worried about the people in Granville County he serves.

"It's not a good situation. I think the taxpayers need to be pretty upset about how their money is being spent," he offered.

D'Haene is a captain at Granville County EMS. He gave us internal documents showing us the county does not have enough paramedics to keep all EMS stations open around the clock. The documents reveal that last year EMS Station 6 in Wilton was shut down 22 full days and 52 half days. Station 7 in Oxford was shut down 75 days.

D'Haene told ABC11 when a station is closed, no one can respond in the event of an emergency.

"I just had to shut it down," said D'Haene.

D'Haene points to examples where he says staffing impacted the emergency response. In one case, a 4-year-old girl was having a seizure in Oxford.

"I said it's gonna be a while before we can get there. Because we were out of ambulances," said D'Haene.

The 911 operator told the caller that an ambulance would have to come from next door Vance County

D'Haene also points to a deadly car wreck on Highway 56. He says, because of limited staffing, paramedics could not respond from an EMS station about two miles away. Instead, an ambulance was dispatched from 16 miles away. 

"I'm not suggesting the person would have lived anyway. But the problem is, one will never know," he explained.

And D'Haene says - even if paramedics are working at the station near you - you still might not make it to the hospital very quickly. He showed us records revealing 112 mechanical problems on ambulances between January of 2013 and January of 2014. He says they broke down many times. One even broke down in someone's driveway.

"That's two ambulances tied up on the same call because of the vehicle breaking down. And this happens all of the time," said D'Haene.

In one stunning example, D'Haene says an ambulance carrying a heart attack patient broke down on Erwin Road in Durham - near the Duke trauma center.

"Paramedics had to take the patient out of the back of the ambulance and wheel him down the road on a stretcher," said D'Haene. "It's unbelievable. I haven't seen anything like it, like I said. In my 33 years in EMS, I've never seen anything like that."

The man in charge of EMS in Granville County is Lee Isley - the CEO of Granville Health System. He agreed to sit down for an interview with the ABC11 I-Team. We provided him with the documents we've gathered and a list of the whistleblower's concerns. Then, he cancelled the interview at the last minute and gave us a two-line statement saying:

"Granville EMS ran 7,326 calls in 2013, operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We are proud of the work our paramedics and EMTs do in delivering quality care to our patients throughout the communities we serve."

Isley's office provided us with different logs that he says indicate EMS stations were unavailable for 39 full days - less than half the time revealed in D'Haene's documents.

Timothy Karan is a Granville County commissioner and is also on the board of trustees which oversees the Granville Health System.

"We were made aware that we've got some staffing issues within the EMS department this year - 2014," he explained.

Karan says part of the staffing problem with EMS boils down to money. Granville County can't pay the higher salaries that paramedics are making in other communities.

"I know we've definitely been working towards hiring additional personnel. And I have every confidence that we'll achieve our full staffing pattern," he said. "I sleep well at night thinking that our citizens are adequately protected."

But D'Haene says Granville County taxpayers deserve something better.

"It can cause some sleepless nights thinking about what could I have done different? Or, why are we in this position? And, I guess that's the reason I contacted you, because this has gotten to a point now where, you know, people's lives are definitely in danger," he said.

D'Haene also says the 60,000 residents of Granville County are not getting what they pay for because EMS also serves the federal prison in Butner - making 406 calls to transport inmates last year and that made it harder to respond to other residents.

D'Haene says he hopes the citizens contact their county commissioners and question the decisions the Granville Health System is making.

See It On TV | Report A Typo |  Send Tip |  Get Alerts | Send us photos
Follow @abc11 on Twitter  |  Become a fan on Facebook

Load Comments