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Ambulance Diverted From East Bay Hospital May Have Cost Man His Life, Family Says

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Da-Lin_BIO-HEAD Da Lin
Da Lin is an award-winning journalist at CBS 5 Eyewitness News. ...
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SAN PABLO (KPIX 5) – An East Bay family said the decision not to take their relative to a nearby hospital this week was a fatal one. They said Doctors Medical Center had the equipment to save him from cardiac arrest, but the cash-strapped hospital recently stopped accepting ambulance patients.

“He had problems breathing,” said Betty Crater.

Her brother, Booker Williams, was rushed to Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley. The family said he waited 90 minutes to get treated, but it was too late. Williams died of cardiac arrest Wednesday.

“I’m saddened. I know he’s in a better place,” Crater said.

Crater said the outcome would have been very different had paramedics been allowed to transport her brother to Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo, near his Richmond home. “My brother could have been alive today if the hospital had been open,” she said.

Doctors Medical Center is one of two hospitals in the area that specialize in treatment for high-risk heart attacks. Alta Bates in Berkeley, where the man was taken, was not one of them.

The family didn’t know Williams was dealing with a heart condition since he had no history of it.

They wanted paramedics to take him to Doctors Medical Center, but paramedics told them that was no longer an option.

“Closer place, and they had the right equipment there to save him,” said Thomas Crater, William’s brother-in-law.

Contra Costa County EMS told KPIX 5 that DMC was taking half of West Contra Costa County’s 911 ambulance transports. They estimate close to 300 transports in the last 13 days have gone to nearby hospitals.

Kaiser in Richmond is getting most of the transports, a 73 percent increase in ambulance patients. Contra Costa Regional Medical Center in Martinez has seen a 43 percent increase. Even though Alta Bates is getting fewer patients than the other two, they have seen the biggest percentage jump, 164 percent.

So far, we don’t know what impact this is having on wait times in the emergency rooms. But Betty Crater said they waited too long, long enough to lose her brother. “Doctor’s Medical Center really needs to get themselves together. Really do,” she said.

Aside from blaming Doctors Medical Center, the family plans to file a grievance against Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.

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