December 20, 2014

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LifeCare Ambulance paramedics disciplined for response to fatal stabbing

LORAIN — Two LifeCare Ambulance paramedics have been disciplined over their response to the Aug. 11 fatal stabbing of Lorain resident Jerome Phillips Jr.

“Nobody lost their job, but nobody is getting off scot-free either,” said Herb de la Porte, LifeCare Ambulance vice president.

While LifeCare provides public safety, it is a private company, and de la Porte said he wouldn’t identify the paramedics or detail the discipline. He previously has said both paramedics had clean records and that the discipline could involve suspensions or re-training.

The paramedics took 15 minutes to respond to the stabbing call. The average LifeCare response time in Lorain is 6½ minutes, de la Porte said.

LifeCare was called by a Lorain County 911 dispatcher at 1:43 a.m. and told a man was suffering from stomach pain. Phillips girlfriend and homicide suspect Anna Carter told a dispatcher in a 911 call that Phillips had come home drunk and fallen down and vomited as he was about to take a shower. She said he was bleeding below his armpit.

Phillips was stabbed in the heart, according to Dr. Stephen Evans, Lorain County coroner. Evans said Wednesday that because of the location of the stab wound, Phillips would’ve died even if the response had been faster.

Nonetheless, de la Porte said paramedics should’ve responded faster. Like firefighters, paramedics work 24-hour shifts and were asleep when they received the call. De la Porte said they took about five minutes to depart but should’ve taken three minutes.

He said road construction on West 21st Street slowed the response and paramedics had difficulty finding the apartment in the unlit apartment complex. The station, at 109 W. 23rd St. and Broadway, is about 5 miles from Carter and Phillips’ Beavercrest Drive apartment. The apartment is next to Mercy Regional Medical Center and the emergency room is just a few minutes’ walk from the apartment.

While acknowledging his paramedics should’ve responded faster, de la Porte was critical of the 911 dispatcher who he said was slow to alert LifeCare that Phillips’ condition had worsened. At 1:50 a.m., the paramedics were told Phillips was unconscious and at 1:56 a.m. they were told he stopped breathing as they were pulling into the complex.

Tracy Slagle, Lorain County 911 director, referred questions about the dispatcher’s performance to Jim Cordes, Lorain County administrator. Cordes said the dispatcher reacted properly and was being unfairly criticized by de la Porte.

“You don’t respond to an emergency callout and lollygag around because you think it’s not important. The response time’s the same whether it’s a heart attack, stomach pains or a stabbing,” Cordes said. “It’s preposterous for him to be trying to shed some of the responsibility.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.