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Mora County Ambulance accused of not responding to calls

Jen French
August 08, 2017 08:03 AM

MORA, N.M. -- After a teenage boy died before an ambulance could get to him, Mora County Ambulance must now prove to the State of New Mexico that it’s capable of responding to medical emergencies.

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Since last October, more than a dozen other patients in need of emergency transport were also left stranded. The Public Regulation Commission is keeping an eye on the county ambulance by demanding a monthly status report that will show the time and date of every ambulance call and response.  

On May 31, a frantic relative called 911 when 15-year-old Nazareth Lara was crushed under a truck at a work site. Lara died instantly and a Mora County ambulance never arrived. Instead, an ambulance from San Miguel County showed up nearly 40 minutes after the accident. 

State records obtained by 4 Investigates reveal no one from Mora County Ambulance could show up to try to save the boy because their primary driver could not leave his small children home alone and the secondary driver wasn’t scheduled.

"Every minute counts when an ambulance is called,” PRC Commissioner Valerie Espinoza said during a Mora County Ambulance hearing in Santa Fe last week. “That determines if that person survives."

Now Mora County must explain to the PRC why it was unable to show up to more than a dozen emergencies like Lara’s.

"There is no question in my mind an immediate health and safety need in Mora County,” said Sandy Jones, another PRC commissioner.

An email obtained by 4 Investigates reveals the State Department of Public Safety accused Mora County of not being available to pick up patients at least 10 times between October and November 2016. During a snow storm in December, DPS officers were forced to take injured drivers and patients to the hospital themselves.

State documents show Mora County has told the PRC that it is understaffed. There are only three employees on staff. Mora County attorney Michael Aragon told 4 Investigates that EMT overtime was straining the county’s already tight budget.

“It was difficult,” Aragon said. “Under our certificate, we were operating under a variance. We are allowed one EMT and 1 driver per run. When you only have 3 people, they were working 24-hour shifts."

Aragon said there are plans to hire several more paramedics as the county reprioritizes its budget.

"The county has some tax," said Stephen Archuleta, a consultant for Mora County. "We received some money from [ambulance] billing. We’re looking at that also."

"We never want a tragedy like this to happen ever again in Mora County,” Aragon said.

Mora County Ambulance has until November to make these changes. If not, the PRC has the power to fine the ambulance or revoke its certificate.

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Jen French

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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