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2 Investigators: 'Basic' Ambulance Delays Treatment For Wounded Man

CHICAGO (CBS) -- When you call an ambulance, you expect that it is going to be fully equipped and staffed by trained paramedics.

But in Chicago that does not always happen.

There are Basic Life Support ambulances and Advanced Life Support ambulances. CBS 2's Dave Savini and the Better Government Association report on the case of a stabbing victim whose care was delayed.

It is an example, some say, of why all ambulances need to be advanced.

A man was attacked along the 1700 block of West Cermak in Chicago.  He was injured with severe pains in his abdomen.

Ambulance 85 from Chinatown was sent and started the victim on a journey spanning two different hospitals, which greatly delayed medical care. Chicago Fire Department sources say the EMS crew botched patient transportation and care.

According to sources, it was not until this ambulance got to the first hospital that a hospital staff member discovered the victim had actually been stabbed.

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Better Government Association logo. (Credit: BGA)

The problem, says sources, is Ambulance 85 is a Basic Life Support (BLS) ambulance. The crews on board are not paramedics; BLS crews are Emergency Medical Technicians, or EMTs. As such, they do not have the advanced training of paramedics and normally handle non-life threatening calls.

Sources say the EMTs in this stabbing case reportedly failed to call for backup when the victim told them he had been stabbed with an ice pick. Then they took him to the wrong hospital, says the Better Government Association's Pat Rehkamp.

"They took him to a hospital that did not have a trauma center to treat stab wounds," he says.

Sources say the victim was taken to University of Illinois Medical Center but because he was stabbed, the EMT's should have called for direction before taking the victim there.

Medical staff examined him then called for an Advanced Life Support ambulance with paramedics to take the man to yet another hospital -- this time Stroger, which is a Level 1 trauma center where he finally got care.

"When you're dealing with stab wounds, obviously every minute counts," Rehkamp says.

About an hour passed before the victim was taken to the correct hospital, he says.

The victim declined to be interviewed.

The issue of upgrading all ambulances to Advanced Life Support is part of contract negotiations with firefighters, so neither the Chicago Fire Department nor the union would discuss it.  There are 15 Basic Life Support ambulances in Chicago and 60 Advanced Life Support ambulances.

Parties also could not discuss the handling of the medical emergency or allow CBS 2 to speak to the EMTs because the incident is under investigation.

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