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A 56-year-old man is dead after paramedics with a California fire department refused, on account of some unspecified state COVID law, to enter a rehabilitation center to retrieve the man as he was experiencing cardiac arrest.
Joseph Angulo, a patient at the Rialto Post Acute Care Center, reportedly stopped breathing and went into cardiac arrest on the evening of Nov. 11th. The care center’s staff promptly called 911 at 7:50 pm. But when paramedics with the Rialto Fire Department arrived on the scene, they refused to go get him.
Some of the encounter was captured on film via a body cam worn by a Rialto Police Department officer who was on the scene.
The footage shows the officer entering the facility and telling the frustrated staff members, who’re seen begging for help, that the paramedics “are not going to come in — they’re saying it’s a state law that they can’t come in.”
“Oh my God, God have mercy,” a nurse can be heard saying in exasperation.
The officer then enters the patient’s room. A nurse can be seen on top of Angulo, desperately trying to administer CPR.
The video then cuts out for a second, after which the officer is seen standing at the entrance of the facility.
According to Los Angeles station KTTV, which broke the story Wednesday, after the officer entered the patient’s room, he “got behind the bed and began to push.”
“With the help of the personnel, the nurse still on top of the man, they steered the bed down the hallways. At one point, you hear him telling the clearly exhausted nurse that she is doing a great job and not to stop,” the station reported.
“They made it through the front door, to the waiting paramedics, who eventually took over the CPR. There was clearly some frustration in the exchange between the staff and the paramedic in charge, as they talked about the patient.”
Angulo was then transported to a hospital but reportedly didn’t make it.
Local officials are now demanding answers.
In a statement, the San Bernardino County chapter of the California Emergency Medical Services Authority confirmed that California paramedics “cannot refuse service … unless directed by law enforcement or if the scene is unsafe.”
Likewise, county officials confirmed “they have no guidelines that are any different,” and city officials noted that “there may have been some restrictions at the beginning of the pandemic, but none at this point,” as reported by KTTV.
And even then,when dispatch centers were “requesting the facilities to move patients to the door or outside the location” at the beginning of the pandemic, according to a 2020 memo from the San Bernardino County Fire Chief’s Association, there was still the expectation that they’d enter the facility worst-case scenario.
“If [the] patient cannot be transferred to exit for or outside prior to arrival, one member of Fire/EMS personnel should initially interact with the patient” and goes on to explain the type of Personal Protective Gear (PPE) that is advisable,” the memo reportedly read.
And so from the looks, of it, there was no justifiable reason for the paramedics to refuse to enter the Rialto Post Acute Care Center. The paramedics have therefore reportedly been placed on leave pending an independent investigation.
Meanwhile, the heroic police officer who’d intervened in a desperate bid to save Angulo has been identified by the The San Bernardino Sun as Ralph Ballew.
According to the Sun, in his official police report made on the day of the incident, Ballew wrote, “Despite being in their line of sight, fire personnel still insisted on (the patient) being brought to them outside before they began life saving efforts and made no effort to assist me in getting (the patient) outside.”
In a “supplement report taken four days after the incident,” it was noted that a registered nurse supervisor had told police that she “did not know of any state law refusing paramedics entrance into the facility.”
“The (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) lifted bans on visitors and even when bans were in place. Fire Responders and essential workers were allowed entrance to the facility,” the report reads.
Something somewhat similar happened in Seattle last month, when, thanks to the staffing shortage created by the city’s vaccine mandate, a 13-year-old teen was forced to watch his father die, despite his repeated pleas to 911 dispatchers that his father was experiencing a medical emergency and was in need of immediate help.
“When Seattle Fire arrived, they were told to wait for police before entering. The address was flagged as unsafe for Seattle Fire to enter. At the time, the precinct was down two officers, leaning on non-patrol volunteers to meet minimum staffing levels,” local journalist Jason Rantz of station KTTH reported.
“It took Seattle police 15 minutes to arrive, delaying medics from performing life-saving measures. Despite their best efforts, the father died. And it turns out the address was flagged due to a previous tenant and did not apply to its current residents.”
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