Review of emergency transportation needed


To the Editor:

A very recent health emergency involving a close friend of mine brought home an alarming realization concerning Islanders and visitors. Brought in by ambulance after being found unconscious in Edgartown, it was determined by our hospital’s ER staff that my friend was suffering from a ruptured brain aneurysm. Dense fog prevented the helicopter transport to Boston she clearly needed. The Coast Guard was summoned, but would need hours to get a plane available to take her, also impeded by the weather.

Meanwhile, the ER staff did all they could do here, not being a trauma center. At the hospital as her healthcare proxy, I then asked if an ambulance was available to take her to Boston instead. I was told there was no on-Island ambulance that could do this, and that it was too late in the evening for the hospital-contracted, off-Island ambulance to take the boat here and then return for the trip to Boston. Meanwhile, my friend’s condition worsened. Eventually, hours after arriving at our hospital, my friend was taken to the Martha’s Vineyard Airport by ambulance and transported to Boston on a Coast Guard plane. Now at Mass General, she is in serious condition.

The concern I now have is that the situation that delayed my friend’s crucial care continues to exist, making all of us vulnerable to a similar precarious delay. I have been in touch with our hospital administration, and they indicated they are aware of this situation. It’s clear to me something needs to be done as soon as possible. At the very least, an ambulance, perhaps with the same hospital personnel on board who would attend a Coast Guard emergency airplane transport, should be available when air transport is not possible. 

The Island is prone to frequent weather issues that make flight not an option. In these life-and-death cases, a ground alternative is needed, one originating on the Island, rather than one coming from off-Island, which necessitates additional time when time is of the essence.

It is my hope the towns and the hospital will recognize this potentially dangerous deficiency, and work together to address it in the near future.


Francine Agnoli