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When to ask for an ambulance to the emergency room

Posted at 10:39 PM, Jul 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-22 01:39:50-04

A Valley emergency room doctor is encouraging people to call 911 for an ambulance to the hospital whenever they perceive they are having a medical emergency.

Dr. Mara Windsor is president of the Arizona chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians. She told ABC15 that not every emergency is a heart attack or stroke, and it may be hard to discern for yourself the proper level of care.

RELATED: How many times do you need to ask for an ambulance?

"Some of the literature has shown that people who don't think they're having an emergency are actually having a life-threatening emergency, that's why it's really perception-based," Dr. Windsor said.

She urges people to err on the side of going to the hospital even if the emergency room may be busy.

"That's why we triage," Dr. Windsor said. "We triage patients based on their vital signs and their complaints and their comorbidities so that we hopefully will be able to capture all the life-threatening emergencies."

Dr. Windsor said absolutely go by ambulance, do not drive yourself, if you have chest pain, low blood sugar or stroke-like symptoms.

On New Year's Eve 2021, Bruce Sandberg asked for an ambulance on a 911 call. He said his 53-year-old wife, Francesca, was having heart palpitations and trouble breathing.

When Phoenix firefighter-paramedics arrived, they concluded she was like any other COVID patient and did not need to go by ambulance. As Bruce drove Francesca to the hospital himself, she lost consciousness and died of a heart attack.

"It was heartbreaking that there could have been a chance that she could have survived," Bruce said. He has filed a notice of claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit, claiming the firefighters denied Francesca the ambulance.

The City of Phoenix answered some written questions submitted by ABC15, and the city said "our procedures dictate that we transport any customer to the hospital who requests transport via ambulance"

Since first airing Bruce Sandberg's story, ABC15 has received dozens of emails and calls from people with similar stories of firefighter paramedics in Arizona trying to dissuade them from taking an ambulance to the hospital.

Did an EMS provider refuse to take you or a loved one to the hospital in an ambulance? Email Melissa at, call her at 602-685-6362, or connect on Twitter and Facebook.