LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said he will call for changes to the way medical emergencies are handled at the L.A. Zoo following a CBS2 investigation into an incident that left a toddler with severe brain damage.
“Bureaucracy should never get in the way of saving a life,” the mayor said Friday. “I’m going to talk to the zoo director and make sure that when there is an emergency, first thing that’s done before the assessment, call 911 – better safe than sorry.”
Garcetti said he will ask the zoo to put emergency medical technicians on staff and call for a joint agreement with neighboring cities so ambulances that are closer can respond to the zoo more quickly.
Last summer, 13-month-old Connor Snider choked on a grape and could not breath while visiting the zoo.
His mother, Kelsey Snider, said a security guard didn’t immediately call for an ambulance because he thought her son was still breathing when the child was really not.
After the 911 call was finally made, it took nearly eight minutes for paramedics to arrive and another ten minutes for them to transport Connor to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
By then, the boy had suffered severe brain damage, the child’s mother said.
Under the zoo’s current emergency policy, when there is a medical emergency, visitors must go to the nearest concession stand and report it. Then a security guard is called to decide if it is necessary to call for an ambulance. After he makes an assessment, the guard then gets on his radio and tells the zoo’s dispatcher to make the call. And then only then, the dispatcher calls 911.
That policy is about to change. Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Peter Sanders told CBS2’s Randy Paige that “The zoo, the LAPD and the Fire Department will be meeting in coming weeks to discuss a new policy regarding calling 911 from the zoo.”
According to the fire department, lights and sirens were used even though the paramedics report didn’t reflect.
Even with lights and sirens, it still took the ambulance nearly eight minutes to arrive at the zoo.
Paige obtained reports on every emergency ambulance run to the zoo over the past five years.
Of the 167 calls, 87 took more than ten minutes for an ambulance to arrive.
“Certainly we strive to have a much faster response time. Our first on-scene response time, we shoot for four to five minutes,” said Dr. Marc Eckstein, Los Angeles Fire Department’s medical director.
Zoos in cities across the country, including Chicago, Houston, Dallas and San Diego, have paramedics and emergency medical technicians on staff as first responders.
While the L.A. Zoo has a state-of-the-art intensive care unit and surgical suite on site with four full-time veterinarians, there are no paramedics or EMT’s there to care for humans.
“We can’t just be caring for animals. We need to care for the human beings that are at the zoo too,” the mayor said.