Local News

EMS Crews Leave Medical Trash at Wreck Scenes

Posted January 1, 2007

— In their rush to care for accident victims and get them to nearby hospitals, paramedics are leaving some used medical supplies along area roads.

WRAL news crews found latex gloves mixed with the litter along U.S. Highway 64 near Wendell after a fatal Christmas Day wreck and along U.S. Highway 1 in Franklin County following a November accident.

The discarded gloves present a potential biological hazard, and Skip Kirkwood, the director of Wake County Emergency Medical Services, urged people to steer clear of them and call the nearest fire department or EMS squad to clean them up if they're found.

"We always want to do the right thing, but we put taking care of sick and injured people and life and safety over getting every last bit of debris at a scene," Kirkwood said. "(Cleaning up is) not at the top (of our list), but it is a priority. We carry red biohazard bags on all of our vehicles. You'll see our people religiously pick up and dispose of materials, but sometimes things slip by. Sometimes things happen."

Emergency workers often rely on tow truck operators responding to wrecks to assist them with the clean-up.

"At night, you can't see everything with artificial light. You get light glare, and a thin rubber glove is something hard to see. But we do try to pick it up if we see anything like that," said Charles Bullock of B&B Wrecker Service, who has been clearing accident scenes for 30 years.

The state spent $16 million last year on cleaning roadside litter.

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  • abilenetx Jan 4, 2007

    I think you guys are all missing the point. The EMS may leave this stuff in their rush to save lives. The paramedics need to take off and save lives! There is ALWAYS someone else at the accident scene, usually several cars of them, the guys in charge of law enforcement, that are responsible for laws being enforced, including littering especially toxic liter. Don't tell me out of 5 or more officers someone should not clear the scene, what if a victim's wallet was left there? The entire scene is supposed to be checked and cleared. This sloppiness is going to result in missing evidence or possibly even an injured person could be left in the bushes on the side of the road. When I see these guys standing around I want to say, hey, get a modern flood type flashlight and start doing what we pay you to do.

  • ryanmedic1 Jan 3, 2007

    I was the first Paramedic to arrive on the scene of this catastrophic Christmas Day accident of US 64 Hwy. I had to determine the severity of all four patients on the scene (3 of which were extremely critical). I'm sure I probably left more than one pair of gloves and maybe even some other insignificant items on the scene. I spent about 8-10 minutes on the scene and that included packaging the patient that I transported and making a brief evaluation of the others on the scene trying to determine their status. It was extremely stressful situation and if the worst I did was to forget a few gloves then I'm extremely pleased with myself.
    I would hope in the future "Mark Roberts" you could do a human interest story on the terrible tragedy that the family suffered and possible find out what you could do for them as apposed of pointing out an extremely small imperfection and basically benign problem which exist throughout all of the EMS systems throughout the country.

  • DJ of Clayton Jan 3, 2007

    I am also a paramedic. Caring for patients can be a very messy affair. Just visit the trauma rooms at WakeMed, UNC, Duke, or ECU for an idea. During my 31 years in EMS I have left a few gloves, gauze wrappers, and other stuff on the scene of a call. We try not to, but sometimes it just happens. However, why doesn’t WRAL (and WTVD, WNCN, WPTF, and the N&O) look at ALL the trash on our highways (maybe they could ask about the mattress I saw recently along the side of US 1 near Apex)? Why don’t they investigate why our highways are so much trashier than those in our adjoining states? During a few recent road trips, I could not help but notice that the highways around Atlanta, Richmond, Washington, Baltimore, Tampa, Harrisburg, Petersburg, Alexandria, and Jacksonville (FL) were much cleaner than those around the Triangle.

    But, since this article was about EMS, I would like to challenge Mr. Roberts or any of his colleagues to come and ride with an EMS unit (or a couple of EMS units)

  • wenzel Jan 2, 2007

    I am a paramedic and I was at that scene on US64 on Christmas. I can tell you that I think I left behind more than one set of gloves, among other things. This was one of the worst accidents that I have seen in 15 years of EMS service. My focus was on the patients. My thoughts were on the tragedy. I count on the fire service and wrecker crews and police to clean up after critical calls. I'd ask any one of you to put yourself in our shoes and ask yourself how you would handle the situation. If your not sure, just look at the floor in the Emergency Room during a Trauma Alert or Code Blue....and that's with 10 trash cans within walking distance......3483

  • cdye Jan 2, 2007

    I work in EMS, and while I can't say for certain that I've never left a glove on the side of the road I promise I do my best.

    What I can say for certain is that I've never left a patient dying on the side of the road to make sure that every bit of trash was picked up before we hit the sirens to go to the hospital.

    We usually have no more than 10 minutes onscene to assess, treat, and transport all the patients involved in an MVC. For the wreck cited in the article that meant two truly critical patients, and 2 fatalities, one a child. I'd hope that WRAL could understand that a glove might be overlooked.

    As for the biohazard danger- I assure you there's a far greater risk posed by the traffic whizzing by than from any pathogens on a latex glove. If you want to make the world safer move over and slow down next time you see flashing lights.

  • anonemoose Jan 2, 2007

    Why doesn't Mark Roberts go out and start digging through the other trash that is actually DUMPED on the side of the road, and find identification of who owned that trash, instead of going back to do one of those lame live shots over and over at the scene of a tragedy.

    I guess the next time that there is a police shooting, Roberts will be out there complaining that the officer didn't pick up his brass.

  • Wake and District Jan 2, 2007

    blue latex gloves...probably belong to the police not ems.

  • diwanicki Jan 2, 2007

    Um,imates can do this as a form of community service.. I totally agree with most of these postings, I would rather they got my loved one to the hospital asap and saved his/her live without delay to pickup a g;ove. Thank you to all EMS,FIRE and RESCUE and Police and WRECKERS for everything you do.

  • wigginswfaa Jan 2, 2007

    I don't think Mark Roberts was trying to degrade any one of the EMS.I think the story was meant to be informative for those who might not to the risk of biohazardous waste. We have a lot of teens that may walk up and down these highways who might not know the importance of not coming in direct contact with these items. The statement(Skip Kirkwood, the director of Wake County Emergency Medical Services, urged people to steer clear of them and call the nearest fire department or EMS squad to clean them up if they're found.) is an informative statement giving directions of what to do. If Mark Roberts did not give detail of the situation then we would not know the importance of the story and would be wondering why the story was reported. I am sure being a member of WRAL Mark Roberts knows that during a situation that involve EMS assistance the primary concern is the person or persons involved in the accident. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

  • deerslayer Jan 2, 2007

    Lame, Lame, Lame......