Vanderbilt Takes Blame For Gunshot Response

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Vanderbilt Takes Blame For Gunshot Response

By Ben Hall. CREATED Aug 15, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Eight Metro Nashville Fire Department personnel will be back on the job next week.

Fire Chief Ricky White put them on administrative leave Wednesday after a NewsChannel 5 investigation revealed an ambulance did not transport a gunshot victim to hospital, despite the fact he was still breathing.

Friday, Vanderbilt University Medical Center took responsibility for medical decisions made in the case.

Chief White told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that none of his employees will be disciplined.

A source close to the case told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that the ambulance workers voiced concern about not taking the gunshot victim to the hospital. But in the end, they listened to Vanderbilt ER doctor who told them not to transport.

The new information raises questions about why a Vanderbilt ER doctor would tell EMS workers not to bring a man who was still breathing to the hospital.

The ambulance arrived at a townhouse in Hermitage Wednesday shortly after 3 a.m. A 32-year-old man had just shot himself in the head.

At 3:48 a.m., EMS workers recorded that his injuries were "not compatible with life" and left.

But more than an hour later, police noticed the man was still breathing and called the ambulance back.

"There is no question that patient should have been transported," said Dr. Corey Slovis, medical director for the Nashville Fire Department.

Dr. Slovis and Fire Chief Ricky White told NewsChannel 5 Investigates on Wednesday that paramedics talked with a Vanderbilt ER doctor who told them not to bring the patient to the hospital.

"The physician didn't know as much as he should have when he made that decision," Dr. Slovis said Wednesday.

But sources close to the case tell NewsChannel 5 Investigates, EMS workers were not comfortable leaving and voiced concern.

They even repeated the doctor's orders back to him, but the doctor said to leave. Protocol is to listen to the doctor.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center released a statement late Friday, taking responsibility for what happened.

According to the statement, fire department personnel on the scene acted "appropriately and responsibly." It said the hospital is refining protocols after this unusual case.

Vanderbilt has refused to release the name of the doctor involved and has said it has no plans to discipline that doctor.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates has asked for the radio traffic from that night which would reveal the conversation between the doctor and the paramedics. That has not been released.

The gunshot victim died several hours after being taken to the hospital.

Vanderbilt has said his injuries were so severe, he would not have survived even if he'd been taken to the hospital right away.

Vanderbilt's entire statement:

“Today, after an internal review of the event involving Vanderbilt’s Adult Emergency Department and Metro Nashville Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services professionals operating in the field, we believe the MNFD emergency medical professionals on scene acted appropriately and responsibly in caring for this individual. The responsibility for decisions surrounding patient care in this event resides with Vanderbilt. The physiologic circumstances surrounding this patient’s unusual and unsurvivable injury provide the opportunity for further refinement of protocols used collaboratively by physicians at Vanderbilt and EMS personnel working in the field as they care for and transport dying patients. We will partner with our colleagues in the MNFD on this effort,” said John Howser, Assistant Vice Chancellor for News and Communications, VUMC. 

Ben Hall

Ben Hall

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Ben Hall is a veteran reporter at NewsChannel 5. He has covered the state legislature, presidential campaigns and is presently part of NewsChannel 5's award-winning investigative unit.