Response To 9-1-1 Call Creates Uncertainty After 3-Month-Old’s Death

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A three month old stops breathing.

“I checked on him to see if my son was breathing, I tried everything, then I called an ambulance, I started screaming and calling my neighbor, ‘Can someone help me? My son is not breathing right,'” said Antonia Flecha.

Little Dahmir Barnett’s mother called 9-1-1.

“I tried my best to give him CPR,” said Flecha.

Instead of the medics arriving, police got to her house in the Juniata section of the city and grabbed Dahmir and took him to St. Christopher’s Hospital, one mile away.

“I had my son’s hand, he came back and it was like u know, he is coming back but he may never be the same, I had my son’s hand and he just left me again, he just went away,” Flecha said.

The doctors at St Christopher’s gave Dahmir’s mother the news, Dahmir was gone.

“They were like, ‘Sorry there is nothing else we can do, he is gone’ they started taking the machines down and taking all the stuff,” she said.

When asked, ‘Do you think this child could have lived had an EMS unit been there? Billy Gault, President of the Firefighter’s Medics Unit Local 22 said “I think it could have had a better shot.”

Gault tells Eyewitness News, the 9-1-1 system is set up so that a 9-1-1 caller first has to speak with a police dispatcher and then explain the emergency again to an EMS dispatcher.

“Aren’t 911 callers answering the same questions twice on the police side and EMS side? Yes, it happens. Yes, we have an antiquated system. Does this make any sense? No, especially since we have a dollar on everyone’s phone bill for 911,” Gault says.

He says, while a 9-1-1 caller gets transferred from police to EMS dispatchers, crucial moments are being lost for someone who needs an ambulance.

“Its not the cops fault, its not the fireman’s fault, it’s the city’s fault for not giving us the resources we need every other day we run out of medic units,” says Gault.

But the city says no time is lost when callers are transferred.

The city admits police often get to a scene before EMS because there are 6,000 officers versus 222 EMS personnel.

“From what I have been able to see, we are still looking at some more issues but, they did everything they could do,” says Everett Gillison, Deputy Mayor of Public Safety.

The city points out the officer response time to the scene was 1 min, when asked if the outcome would have been different had an ambulance responded first instead of that police officer, Gillison responded by saying:

“I doubt whether it could have, but the one thing that could have been different, would be if the ambulance could have gotten there first, one person would have been doing CPR.”

“I just want my baby back. I want to find out why he left me, I’m just suffering every day, I want him back, I try to deal with all the pain, said Flecha.

A preliminary autopsy shows Dahmir died of sudden infant death syndrome, but a full autopsy report is not done yet.. Dahmir’s mother says her son was revived at the hospital so she is not convinced he died of SIDS.

Reported by Valerie Levesque, CBS 3

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  • Peggy Schroeder

    There is no winning in this case. Only a way to make it better for the next misforunate. Hopefully the police, 911 dispatchers and medics can learn or find something to make the next event have a better out come. Like did the police even find out how long it would be be for the medics got there?

  • PatrickG.

    John B. … I did not hear Bill Gault ask for one job during this interview. He merely pointed out that the system of first having calls go to Police radio and then Fire radio rooms is redundant and costs time that could be used to effect rescue. No one doubts the intentions of the Police Officer who was put into a very bad situation. I think what needs to be looked at here is where all the local medic units were at the time of this catastrophe and why Philadelphia doesnt have a priority dispatch system which would give this type of emergency a priority over non-emergency calls instead of first come first served.

  • Yvette Marianne

    I hope everyone understands that the problem is not that police got on scene first but that they took the infant. If cpr was initiated and continued as medics responded there would have been a better chance of survival. And if police and fire dispatchers were in the same room and merged the caller would not be questioned twice. Yes there has to be something done to prevent police this from occuring over and over again!

  • ED RN

    As an ED RN in Philly at a Childrens hospital I have seen this way to many times. More medics are needed in the city. Medics waste most of there shifts with people who have ear pain or stubbed their toe. People abuse the 911 system and medics are forced them to bring them to the Emergency Department. While medics are enroute to the hospital with a 5 year old with ear pain, a 50 year old is dying at home from having a massive heart attack waiting for a medic unit to respond, or in this case a 3 month old might loose their life because budget cuts released They are unable to recieve urgent medical attention because that medic unit is being abused by someone who thinks that they can use an ambulance as a taxi service. Good bless this family, and I hope that they will pe proactive with agressivly persuing the need for more medics in the city and ask Mayor Nutter why he thinks that medics are not needed in the city of philadelphia. I know the police are not at fault for what happended but as a medical professional the 911 system in philadelphia is a giant JOKE and needs to be completly revamped. Medics are needed- they are so important as first responders- they are the reason why critcally ill patients are fixed in the field (on the streets). CPR/medicaitons/ early defibrilation/early airway protection all could have made a difference.

  • Dale

    Study after study has shown that good and effective CPR is the key to survial rates of any cardiac arrest, esspecially a pedi code. The officer made a decision on which they had no formal training. The ride to the hospital, even if for two minutes, without CPR aided in the patients death. The patient had a better chance of doing good CPR on scene and waiting even 5 minutes than doing what he did…. And this is atleast the third time this has happened over the last two months!!!!Kids how might have a chance to live are not given that chance by the decisions of untrained persons. Just because there is a light that doesnt work in your house, doesnt mean you fix it after seeing it done on TV…You call an electrician not a plummer to fix the light!!!But since the Police are doing the jobs of the medics, why not give the medics a gun, hand cuffs and ticket book and they can help out the Police with their job…

    • ED RN

      Could not agree more. I know you might have been able to make some difference in this outcome. No one can say for sure, but at least give people a fighting chance.

  • Steve

    John B you must not understand the capabilities of Paramedics these days. Properly staffed and equipped MICU’s (Mobile Intensive Care Units) can provide nearly identical care to their counterparts in the ER. They use the same medications, electrical therapy equipment and airway management skills while operating off of the same nationwide protocols. The police within Phila have no formal medical training and were in no place to make that judgement. It’s as if you’re saying when my sink breaks to call an electrician, when we both know I need the plumber.

  • anon513

    My Prayers to thee Mother and Family of the Infant. It’s not easy losing a child of ANY age. I hope the final autopsy will put closure to this Mother’s questions as to why her Angel passed.

  • John B

    This story appears to be trying to blame the city for the child’s death, but I’m not sure why. The police got there very quick and made the decision based on the child’s condition and close proximity to the hospital to transport the child to the hospital in the police car which means the child was in the ER way faster than a medic unit responding and transporting. The child had the best medical care available much quicker because of their decision which means the child had the best opportunity to survive. It appears the firefighters union is trying to take advantage of this baby’s terrible and unfortunate situation and say they need more jobs or different 911 answering protocol none of which would have changed things.

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