California Principal Blocks Ambulance Sent to Help Student To Protect Recently Remodeled Field

Parents in San Jose, California are upset over an astonishing decision made by a high school principal to stop an ambulance from driving onto a football field to help an injured player at Del Mar High School on October 29th. The principal Liz Seabury reportedly says she was following district orders to protect the school’s recently remodeled field from motorized vehicles.

Fourteen-year-old Keanu Gallardo was lying on the field when the ambulance arrived. This appears a case where the official was taking an absolutist view of policies — much like the absurd cases we have followed over the zero tolerance policy on drugs and weapons where kids are suspended for drawing stick figures or bringing in aspirin.

Gallardo had suffered a concussion during Del Mar’s JV football game and the principal forced emergency workers to carry a gurney 75 yards downfield to help him. The decision could have cost the district dearly. If the child was harmed by the delay or the act of being carried over the field, the school would have been hit with major torts damages for negligence.

Source: ABC

Jonathan Turley

41 thoughts on “California Principal Blocks Ambulance Sent to Help Student To Protect Recently Remodeled Field”

  1. PatricParamedic

    Yes I agree the 70s and early 80s were going in the right direction with the development of the degrees in EMS and my FD was pushing for professional educated Paramedics. During that time I think EMS was at its best. Now I wouldn’t give you 2 cents for the FDs who exercise quantity over quality. The private services are also guilty of the warm body mentality and keep the medic mills alive. The medic mills are fostering this attitude all the way to the bank with easy loans for very, very expensive classes and rapid cert tracks. Some charge more for a 110 hour EMT class than my whole A.S. degree cost complete with Paramedic cert. But, being Americans, some love the quickest way and can be talked into almost anything regardless of cost. Most aren’t aware they have only a 1 out of 1000 chance of getting hired at a FD which hires for just a few positions each year. Nor are they aware EMS is not like what you see on TV or the cool medic mill ads.

    The degrees still exist but most will never get even the Associates. Many get hung up on cool skills and believe the ability to push a few meds by protocol or recipe and stick a piece of plastic down someone’s throat makes them just like a doctor. Somehow they believe their 6 months of training equals the 12 years of education and residency for a doctor. The words “physician extender” were also overused and misused in EMS to where it did more harm than good.

    BTW, I wasn’t referring to your book. I was referring to the EKG book which I refuse to promote regardless of how good it it. There are other books which are just as good and maybe even better.

    Of course, you could also put together a book of idiotic and ignorant EMS incidents but it might take several volumes to cover those that have made headlines just this year. Reading some of the EMS forums is also enough to make one wonder if there is any hope of EMS ever becoming a profession.

  2. Tootie,

    That is exactly what has happened in the past. Some on ambulances have purposely destroyed property to show their ignorance when told to slow down and use caution which may have been meant for the safety of the children as well as the field.

    You seem to have gotten your wish for athletics being removed from school systems. And that is a sad shame. Kids no longer have an incentive to exercise or something to do to burn off energy that leads to idle hours. I was lucky enough to grow up in a time when physical education was mandatory and competition in sports was respected as well as healthy.

    You don’t want to encourage any interests in your children, then I do feel very sorry for them to have you as a parent. Activities such as art, music and sports should all be part of a child’s education process.

  3. Heck, drive all over that thing. Tear it up.

    It doesn’t belong there. It’s a waste of public funds. Fire the person or persons who wasted the money on it.

    Get rid of the football team and all the rest.

    Football should be an after school activity funded by parents whose children are interested in it.

  4. Oh, when it comes to physician misbehavior, we deal only in facts. This particular character has been disciplined more than once, and is considered one of 19 ‘disruptive physicians’ in his medical center, by his administration. But as generally happens when MDs misbehave, most staff members stay quiet until all hell breaks lose.

    “Absurd piece of gossip.”

    It ain’t gossip when it comes from other MDs who are embarrassed by a colleague. We don’t deal in gossip. Last year I wrote a book on the ungodly volume of just this sort of idiotic behavior. The only reason the book exists is because 481 nurses, docs, medics & techs came forward and told their stories. It’s that simple.

    I’m not in the habit of giving the book unwanted advertizing on other peoples’ websites, so I won’t mention the title here. It’s easy to find for anyone interested. But the point is, our policy in exposing physician misfits is simple: The reporting person either puts their name on the story, or there is no story.

    I have a feeling we could have a pretty fair debate re: fire vs non-fire medics. I’ve been both. I personally believe paramedicine – as it is in some outstanding places – should be totally separate from fire. But that isn’t my call to make. I find it pathetic that – regardless of who provides the service – the same, old tired debates re: quality of care & response times never change much. They’re the same battles we were fighting 30 years ago. Hell, no wonder so many people bail out.

    Of course paramedic schools are no longer associated with Universities. That’s half my point to responding on this thread. They USED to be. I don’t know what the Diploma looks like for the typical medic driving down the street in my neighborhood. But I know what mine looks like. And stamped into the gold foil it reads: UCSD school of Medicine, school of anesthesiology. Those medical programs were pretty darn picky. And based on our rotations in O.R., Labor & Delivery, Anesthesiology & Peds, along with the fact that we spent time in Behavioral Sciences at Patton State, I’d stack my training up against any.

    I wish you nothing but the best out there. It sounds like you’ve been in the trenches, as have I.

  5. PatricParamedic
    If you want to take about California and San Jose at least get the information correct. It still only takes 110 hours to be an EMT and 1045 to be a Paramedic in California. There is no need to go to college since there are many private trade schools that teach these classes and much faster than a college semester. Check the EMSA website to see this for yourself. You can also find a list of Paramedic programs which are not at a college.

    The UCLA Daniel Freeman program is nothing more than a mill for the FDs. The student also does not earn UCLA college credits. However, the time is accepted by WLAC but I doubt if many FFs will get a degree as a Paramedic but will go on to a degree in managment or fire science. There is not a need for a degree in EMS.

    Most of us “old timers” are with the FDs since that is where most of EMS in the U.S. has its roots. The FD at least offers stability and has physicial fitness requirements for entry.

    But, it is now just an add on since many FDs want their new hires to already be Paramedics or get the cert within one year. Some FFs just want it for the extra pay which isn’t too shabby. Name one? How about several? Look at the FDs in Southern California. Since you mentioned Miami, you could also look at South Florida and those in SW Florida namely the Collier County mess. How about the headlining depts in TX? Not very flattering for those who just want the pay raise for the extra cert and probably shouldn’t be going near patients. The concept of every FF being a Paramedic is not the best one but it does show how easy the Paramedic cert is to get.

    But, for this situation, San Jose sent FD Paramedics. It is too bad the FD Paramedics did not have the ability to transport. But, for future situations, they need to improve the communication between services instead of setting AMR or any private ambulance up for failure. Yes, your dislike for AMR is very obvious but private ambulances still provide patient transport services that most FDs would never think of doing or ever want to.

    And this absurd piece of gossip:
    “And Florida does indeed appear to spawn more than their share, including a well-known orthopedic surgeon in Miami who evidently likes to scrub-in for operations completely naked, just to irritate the nurses. Nothing on but the booties.”

    Do you know this for an absolute fact or is this just some story you’ve heard? Did you check the Florida MQA site to see if this is even an actual person? Florida does deal with its problem physicians fairly well even though the EMS community will say one who lost his license to practice in FL could never do any wrong because of one book he wrote.

    BTW: For the Frank from Florida comment, Disneyland is in California and Disneyworld is in Florida. It appeared you were confused since Frank was talking about health care in Florida.

  6. Frank –

    “Having lived in FLA for a few years I found the level of care there to be well below third-world status. Doctor inattention and misfeasance, hospital screw ups, nurse, aid and orderly incompetence virtually every encounter there was an adventure”

    Hey Frank –

    For your info, I now investigate physican misbehavior for a living, and I can tell you we receive 20-30 emails per week from medical professionals re: the lab coat lunacy that goes on around them. And Florida does indeed appear to spawn more than their share, including a well-known orthopedic surgeon in Miami who evidently likes to scrub-in for operations completely naked, just to irritate the nurses. Nothing on but the booties.

    He’ll be in my next book,for sure, name & all. Gotta love ’em.

  7. Blouise,

    Admittedly, inartfully articulated… 🙂

    Now I need to get some sleep, so that I’m able to fend off cannibalistic colleagues at work tomorrow.

  8. R.J. –

    “There are still many states that allow a “driver only” and others that will use a FF or LEO to drive the ambulance when necessary. It is not necessary to list one’s life degrees to know when someone is driving an ambulance.”

    My comments were not generic – they referred to a specific California case. In San Jose county, no responding unit to head trauma, called in by on-scene medics, would be staffed by anybody with less than EMT, college-level training. My statement has nothing to do with listing life degrees, which is immaterial. It has everything to do with the wholely inaccurate, lazy-journalistic use of the term ‘ ambulance driver.’

    “If Frank is from Florida, DISNEYWORLD, has Reedy Creek FD which is all ALS to respond.”

    Once again, you seem to have a hard time tracking. DISNEYLAND. Nobody said anything about Disneyworld.

    “As for as the “AMR effect”, to be a Paramedic takes very little education and training as already mentioned.”

    Are you completely unaware that you just proved my point?

    For a true education, you might compare the curriculum of UCSD school of medicine (La Jolla) Paramedic program 25 years ago,where my group went to school, or Daniel Freeman (L.A.) or Tanana (Alaska) – other words pre-AMR training, with the fast-food, revolving door EMS schooling that goes on today. Why the change? The AMR fluid response system is a big part of it, which burns through medics like poop through a goose. Of course we oldtimers view Paramedics as a career, not a way to “become a firefighter.”

    “FFs view it as an add on skill and no big deal to get.”

    Really? Name one.

    “if the FD had its own transport ability this child would have been to the hospital already.”

    AMR-effect. You keep proving my point. What’s more ridiculous than medics on the scene of a head injury for 20 minutes with no ability to transport?

    “But then, if the ambulance arrives late and has no help getting the location of the patient, there are more problems than with this principle.”

    AMR-effect, anybody? The kid didn’t NEED a fire apparatus.

    You are, however, absolutely right that not all programs – ergo, not all medics – are created equal. Kinda like surgeons that way. And the end result can often be seen in cases just such as these, where a high school bureaucrat dictates response protocols in an emergency, to protect a pretty carpet. And the AMR crew bobs their heads and goes along with the program.

  9. PatricParamedic, You are giving some inaccurate information.

    1. There are still many states that allow a “driver only” and others that will use a FF or LEO to drive the ambulance when necessary. It is not necessary to list one’s life degrees to know when someone is driving an ambulance.

    2. The U.S. only a degree for Paramedic is required in one state, Oregon(maybe two if you count Kansas), and it is a mere Associates degree. California requires only 1000 hours which is ahead of most and there are some states that require only 3 months or 600 hours of training to be a Paramedic. EMT requires only 110 hours and can be done in less than 3 weeks.

    3. If Frank is from Florida, DISNEYWORLD, has Reedy Creek FD which is all ALS to respond. You don’t have to park a fire truck in the middle of the park to have a good response time if the security and FD know the layout and have a plan of action for entrance. Yes, they respond directly to the park and in plain view unless the patient is in a position to be transported by the little response cart to one of the first aid stations behind the scenes. Florida is also one of the few states that provides ALS EMS to all of its citizens. Frank could live in a state where it is BLS EMS only and no trauma, stroke or heart centers are available for many miles.

    4. As for as the “AMR effect”, to be a Paramedic takes very little education and training as already mentioned. As proven by the headlines you can cheat on all the refreshers and still keep your certification. FFs view it as an add on skill and no big deal to get. There are many professions in healthcare you can go into that doesn’t require youth or decent physicial ability. But, they require an education. You should know that the U.S. Paramedic would not even be qualified to be an “Ambulance Driver” or have much patient contact in other countries.

    If the fire truck found its way to the football field and didn’t complain about the distance to the patient from where they parked their truck, maybe the ambulance should have been directed to that entrance. This child had a quick ALS care and if the FD had its own transport ability this child would have been to the hospital already. It is also possible the FF/Paramedics would have released this child to go as “Basic Life Support” and the FFs would have returned to their station instead of accompanying the child to the hospital.

    In all the years I have been on an ambulance at games and as a spectator for high school through professional, there has never been a reason to drive a large truck on the playing field. Modern stretchers make getting the patient a very easy task and even back in the “old” days we had no problem getting the patient off the field without much difficulty.

    There is a good chance there was no communication between Fire and AMR. You have to blame someone and if those who respond to emergencies don’t have their acts together, it is easy to blame someone else who is just doing their job. This is not an uncommon situation and it shouldn’t have been such a big deal to get a child off the field and into an ambulance in a timely manner. But then, if the ambulance arrives late and has no help getting the location of the patient, there are more problems than with this principle.

  10. anon nurse,

    “(It was “stunning” for me, as well…) There’s a saying that “nurses eat their own”, and it’s sadly true in some cases. I’ve seen outright cruelty…”

    Honey, you said a mouthful!

  11. Just for the record, the term ‘ambulance driver’ went out the window in 1974, when college-level EMS training became the mandate. The response team in this case were either EMTs or Paramedics, and THEY decide what equipment they will use, and how best to work up the case, unless they allow themselves to be bullied on-scene.

    I won’t second-guess the medics’ decision because I wasn’t there, but I can say the following:

    1. Their information re: the patient is only as good as what they were told. And dispatched info runs the gamut from accurate to ridiculous.

    2. The “average” medic age & years of experience in the field has plummeted. In the business there is a reality known as the “AMR-effect” which – without telling you more than you want to know – has had a monster impact on how talented your EMS caregiver might be. Ever see an EMS unit sitting at a Taco Bell parking lot, waiting for their next call, assuaging their stress with a burrito? That’s one aspect of the AMR-effect.

    3. I’ve personally responded to 12,200 911 calls over 32-years. My partners & I have probably been called to two-dozen football games. (But hey – one time it was a cheerleader) I seem to recall twice when we wanted the unit (which contains all the EMS gear, by the way) out onto the field.

    So the matter of ‘how close to park the unit’ is merely one tool in your bag of tricks. And the reality is, you never know until afterward whether it was important or not.

    Incidentally to Frank in Florida: I commiserate, but the WORST place to have a true emergency is Disneyland. They don’t allow ANY advanced EMS care within sight of the public.

  12. It is the senior member of the response team (ultimately his/her employer), not the principal, who could/should be held liable if the situation warranted driving on the field to pick up the injured player.

    In all my years as a sports player (I played football in high school and semi-pro as an adult, but no college) and fan, I can’t recall the last time I saw an ambulance drive on to the field.

    Every parent wants to see, not only their child, but all children, receive the best treatment possible in the most expedient manner (even when the situation doesn’t warrant it). This was a concussion, and much like a broken leg or arm, it did not require the same response as that needed for a gunshot victim who is bleeding out.

    Ambulance drivers don’t usually tear up property in order to get closer to the patient. Could you imagine the outrage if that became the SOP? If the situation warranted it, most people would gladly sacrifice property. If the situation warranted it.

    What? No lights and siren? As Prof. Turley said “[I]f the child was harmed by the delay or the act of being carried over the field, the school would have been hit with major torts damages for negligence”. That’s why we let the first responders make the determination of how to pick up and transport the patient. If the ambulance driver determined that the child needed to be picked up on the field, any ambulance driver worth his salt would have quickly overridden the principal and driven on to the field. If the principal would have further interfered, she would have been charged with impeding under the appropriate statute.

  13. “I can’t imagine any reason Dionne Warwick was in such a hurry to return.” (Buddha)

    Thanks for that… 🙂

  14. mespo

    “It was stunning to learn — as I did some time ago– that some health care workers are the least compassionate people of all.”

    ——————-

    (It was “stunning” for me, as well…) There’s a saying that “nurses eat their own”, and it’s sadly true in some cases. I’ve seen outright cruelty…

    (And, yes, of course, there are many good ones, they ruin it for the bad… yada, yada, yada… I wish there were enough sensitive souls to go around, so we could rout out the bad…)

  15. mespo,

    It’s been my experience that San Jose is best left avoided altogether. If it wasn’t so close to San Francisco and Napa, I can’t imagine any reason Dionne Warwick was in such a hurry to return.

  16. OH! and as far as places not to get sick or injured? Having lived in FLA for a few years I found the level of care there to be well below third-world status. Doctor inattention and misfeasance, hospital screw ups, nurse, aid and orderly incompetence virtually every encounter there was an adventure.

  17. Having been to a lot of HS football games I have seen ambulances take injured players off the field maybe a dozen times. I have never seen one drive onto the field, they always drive on the track that encircles every HS field I have been at. This usually means about a 40 yard trip by gurney. Not sure what the heck was the deal here.

  18. “I think that they don’t let any ambulance go on any field at any high school games, or at any game period. I don’t think that she did anything wrong. I work in an emergency room and I don’t think it delayed his care at all,” said parent Denise Leyer.”

    ******************

    Note to Self: Avoid ER’s in San Jose, California.

    It was stunning to learn — as I did some time ago– that some health care workers are the least compassionate people of all.

  19. This principal should lose her job immediately because her stupidity could have cost a child’s life or health and the District millions. Now, the District needs to review its policy to make sure it doesn’t place any more of its principals into that very same position of actually having to think!

  20. Ah common sense or the lack there of….reminds me of the story of the talents and the worker that hid his….

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