Hospitals at risk as ambulance service shuts down in 6 states

No matter how highly regarded a hospital in Kentucky may be, if sick or injured people can't get treatment on time due to ambulance delays or closures, their reputation is put on the line - along with human lives. Hospitals depend on their medical transportation and emergency response services to get patients the timely treatment and stabilization they need. A large-scale ambulance service closure can cause casualties and deaths, and someone needs to be held accountable.

While it's bad enough when one hospital experiences a problem with their medical transportation service, if this happens on a large scale, the implications are catastrophic. One private ambulance service, responsible for transporting over 500,000 patients in six states every year, shut down without warning this past Saturday, Dec. 14. Hospitals and other medical facilities are still scrambling, and over 1,500 paramedics and other medical employees are out of work in various areas. The company's website is down, and Facebook posts and tweets by company workers indicate that bankruptcy may have been filed. Employees were not notified of the shutdown; many showed up at work only to find it was closed.

Kentucky was one of the states affected by this sudden and unannounced closure of a key hospital service provider. Medical facilities in other states are rushing to cancel non-essential appointments, and at least one county in North Carolina so far has declared a state of emergency. While much of the ambulance company's business is "non-emergent" medical service, even these services can be life-saving, such as transportation to kidney dialysis services.

Although the hospitals themselves were not negligent in this scenario, and many are going to great lengths to cover this devastating gap in services, people are unlikely to feel sympathetic if a loved one dies due to the unreliability of a hospital service provider. Some may argue that they should have backup provider options for all emergency services. If someone dies or becomes injured as a result of a delay in medical transportation, this could be cited as emergency room negligence. In other cases, the provider of medical transportation may be held directly accountable. A personal injury attorney can help determine who is at fault, and help the victims and their families seek compensation for their losses and damages.

Source: cnbc.com, "Major ambulance service shuts down without notice in six states" M. Alex Johnson, Dec. 10, 2013

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