Indiana Senate considers new nursing home rules for 911 calls

State EMS Commissioner Rick Archer, the state official in charge of investigating CARE Ambulance, is a former owner of CARE.

After 13 Investigates revealed that some nursing homes fail to call 911 in life and death emergencies, a state Senate health committee is now calling for a system-wide review under a new proposed law.

"A number of folks have talked to me about the need to improve ambulance service," said Sen. Pat Miller (R-Indianapolis).

Miller believes there ought to be a law ensuring that patients get help fast in life and death emergencies. Right now there is none.

Senate Bill 224 is the first step to change that. It requires the State EMS Commission, Health Department and State Fire Marshal to create a new statewide report on response times and practices for responding to 911 calls, equipment requirements on ambulances and transportation procedures including nursing home policies for emergency and non-emergency transport.

"I think it's good to ask these questions," said Anthony Murray, Volunteer Firefighter's Association.

The developments come in the wake of a 13 Investigates report that uncovered a local ambulance company and nursing home putting their business practices over patient care by failing to call 911.

Industry insiders emerged in overwhelming support.

"You do not get into EMS for its pay. You get into it because you want to help others," said Randy Seals, Indiana EMS Association.

At the heart of the case is Barbara Parcel. In March she went into cardiac arrest at Wildwood Healthcare. An LPN called CARE ambulance to respond, but CARE didn't have a crew available. Instead of turning the call over to 911 to get IFD Station 43, just five minutes away, CARE scrambled an off-duty crew from its headquarters.

Barbara Parcel didn't get help for more than 20 minutes. By the time she got to a hospital, it was too late.

"It's very important that they get to the right hospital in the appropriate amount of time," said Danielle Patterson, American Heart Association.

"Could things have been done better? Probably so," said Randy Seals, Indiana EMS.

A scathing State Health Department report determined the nurse in Parcel's case failed to call 911 at two critical points. Health inspectors cited the facility for "failure to ensure appropriate care."

Scott Tittle represents 250 nursing homes across the state. He told the Senate committee that transfer agreements are in place with ambulance companies, but nursing homes are required to have clear plans of action.

"Written planning procedures to cover all emergency care situations," said Tittle.

After the unanimous committee vote, Eyewitness News caught up with State EMS Commissioner Rick Archer, the state official in charge of investigating CARE Ambulance. 13 Investigates has learned, Archer is a former owner of CARE. He refused to comment when asked about his relationship to the company.

In November, Archer ruled CARE did nothing wrong, but promised a new investigation after 13 Investigates showed him internal documents he says his investigators knew nothing about, including a CARE company policy of not turning over calls to 911.

Eyewitness News: "Is the investigation still ongoing with CARE?"

Rick Archer: "Yes, it is."

"So you have not found those other documents that we had talked about previously?"

Archer: "I'm not in the position to talk about that just now."

In a statement from the EMS Commission, the agency took into account Archer's employment with CARE that ended in 2003, and had others involved in the investigation, including the Chief of Staff, an attorney and a fire investigator who conducted the probe.

Senate Bill 224 is being set for a second read on the road to the full Indiana Senate.

See all stories related to our investigation into ambulance response times.