The failure of the EMS system continues to cost people their lives
It’s been more than a year, but Vlad Glikman is still searching for accountability in his mother death.
Jan. 20, 2008: Glikman receives a frantic call from his 81-year-old father telling him that his mother, Adalina, is unconscious in their Somerton apartment in the Northeast. His father says a private ambulance company, Century, is on the way. Twenty minutes later, Glikman arrives at his parents’ home and finds his mother on the ground, still unconscious, with no ambulance in sight. His father calls Century again, but according to Glikman, the ambulance driver says he can’t get his engine started due to the blistering cold. Desperate to save his mother, Glikman dials 911. Fifteen minutes later—far too late by most national standards—a city-dispatched ambulance arrives just in time to pronounce her dead.
Nine months after Adalina’s death, Glikman filed a complaint against Century Ambulance with the Bureau of Emergency Medical Services, a part of the Pa. Department of Health.
Glikman alleges that the roughly 35-minute lapse between the time he received the call from his father and the time the 911-dispatched ambulance showed up cost his mother her life. The 55-year-old says at the very least the Century driver should’ve called 911 when he realized he couldn’t get to the scene.
Vlad Glikman isn’t the first city resident to complain about Philadelphia’s ambulance services, whether provided by private companies or the city itself. In 2006, PW’s Mike Newall exposed the city as being dangerously underserved by EMS. At the time, the Philadelphia Fire Department had 40 ambulance squads, 28 of which were full-time. Today, there are 10 more, but according to the International Association of Fire Fighters, Philadelphia should have at least 70 full-time ambulances, especially given the city’s growing need.
Residents often rely on private companies, especially after their faith in city services is compromised. Though their main purpose is for general, not emergency, transport, the number of private ambulances has swelled because of response time troubles with city- dispatched ambulances.
In last month’s Daily News, Dave Davies quoted Rob Berkoff of Northeast Community Ambulance, a private company, as saying: “The city doesn’t have the money or manpower now to handle [the volume]. If they would incorporate us into the 911 system, it would help.” That doesn’t seem to be on the table. And there’s no guarantee every private or nonprofit company could manage the added responsibility.
“That Century driver was thinking about charging my parents or Medicaid for that ride. He wasn’t thinking about my mother’s life,” says Gilkman. “I know what they should have done and they didn’t do it.”
The consequences of inadequate ambulance services in the city continue to reverberate. At the end of 2007, City Controller Alan Butkovitz released a report revealing that Philadelphia EMS units arrive late 40 percent of the time. There was the widely reported story of Deborah Payne, a Northeast resident who died New Year’s Day 2008 while waiting two hours in her Holmesburg apartment for an advanced life unit. A Fire Department report said that the city just ran out of paramedics. Then, last month, there was the YouTube video of two cops arguing as a West Philadelphia man bled on the street. Witnesses on the scene claim it took almost an hour for an ambulance to arrive.
Now private ambulance drivers say they’re feeling the brunt of the city’s failure. “Excuse my French,” says Aleksey Lomov, the Century driver who received the initial call from Glikman’s father, “but Vlad Glikman is the biggest asshole in the world.”
Lomov says that with a beleaguered city force, private ambulance companies are becoming an easy target for disgruntled residents like Glikman. He says Glikman’s claims of gross negligence are “nothing but rumors that are starting to hurt our business.”
The besieged driver claims that he did respond to the Glikman residence, arriving just before the city ambulance, and while he admits to taking “a long time,” he also says that when Glikman’s father called the first time, he said only that a woman had fallen, not that she was unconscious.
There are at least 75 private ambulance companies in Philadelphia, says Lomov, and some operate better than others. He believes this isn’t really a fight about response time, but rather about Glikman’s desire to place blame for his mother’s death.
As for Glikman, he’s swimming in bureaucracy. The state cleared Century of any wrongdoing, so the grieving son took a swing at the Bureau of Emergency Medical Services, filing a complaint with the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Last week, that too was rejected.
“The Philadelphia Regional EMS Council investigated and concluded that there was no incorrect medical care given by Century Ambulance,” says Stacy Kriedeman, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health.
The state did find violation in regards to response time. But Century submitted a plan of correction, and now the case is closed. Civil action is the only option Glikman has left, but he says he doesn’t want money.
Regarding Christopher Wink’s recent story about a woman’s death due to the slow response of a private ambulance service: Ok! Now it’s time to tell what happen that day. Yes we are received a call from Mr. Glikman father. But he did not tell us everything. That day a temperature was low (19 degrees F), and we have a problem with start. But we are arrived at scene in 20 min., and second call from Mr. Glikman was at his residence. We found Adelina Glikman laying on a floor in a perfect supine position, with a bruise on her forehead. She was unconscious and unresponsive. I started one man CPR when my partner jump to the truck for BVM, when he return he take a turn and I call 911 about “code blue.” The 911...