Elderly woman waits 70 minutes for ambulance after slip and fall

By Rich Bockmann

A 96-year-old woman waited longer than an hour for an ambulance to arrive after she took a fall inside a Jamaica nursing home Monday, a staffer said, in yet the latest episode of the city’s beleaguered, new 911 call system.

Irene Boylan laid on the floor of her apartment in pain after taking a spill Monday, said Fernando Sealey, a security guard at the Calvary Baptist Senior Houses.

“She was getting up and I guess she fell,” said Sealey, who explained staff at the houses made the first 911 call at 1:17 p.m. “The assistant manager called three times.”

Sealey said an ambulance finally arrived 70 minutes later, at 2:27 p.m., and took Boylan to Jamaica Hospital.

The Fire Department said its 30-year-old dispatching system is being replaced as part of a 911 overhaul and that operators had to revert to taking calls with pen and paper after the system went down Monday morning.

“Beginning at around 7:45 a.m. this morning, the FDNY’s computer dispatch system for EMS calls began experiencing technical problems followed by intermittent outages totaling about 90 minutes of system downtime,” the department said in a statement. “During the outages, call takers have handled and dispatched calls manually. No calls were lost.”

The FDNY said technicians were performing tests to root out the cause of the system’s problems, adding that the systems used to send out police and firefighting resources were not affected.

Earlier this month the 911 system came under heavy fire when an intern for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) fainted and had to wait about 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive in Brooklyn, according to news reports.

The security guard at the Calvary houses said this was the first time he could recall having to wait more than a few minutes for an ambulance.

“We’ve never had a problem like this before. Usually when we call it takes about two or three minutes,” he said. “This is the first time to take that long.”

Sealey said Boylan was still in the hospital recovering Wednesday, and he hopes the bugs get worked out of the system before the home has to make another 911 call.

“Not much we can do about that,” he said. “The most we can do is call.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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