Local News

911 Dispatchers Fired After Communication Breakdown

Posted February 15, 2001

— Two Johnston County 911 operators have been fired after an apparent breakdown in communication.

The initial call came in Wednesday morning from a Four Oaks nursing home, where a patient was unresponsive.

911 operator Melissa Newsome paged a team of Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) as well as paramedic Jason Thompson. Thompson apparently never received the page.

Records show that dispatchers waited 12 minutes before trying to reach Thompson again. The patient, who died Thursday, stopped breathing before the paramedic arrived.

A medical supervisor called the 911 center to find out where Thompson was. Operator Len Starling responded, "Oh well. Not my damn problem."

A few minutes later, the same supervisor called Newsome and got a similar response.

Johnston County 911 director Jason Barbour could not comment on the specific case, but he says that he expects proper behavior from all of his employees.

"I expect [operators] to exhaust all means available to them to make sure the public is being taken care of," he said.

Starling and Newsome say they did not wait 12 minutes. They say that they followed county procedure to the letter, and they have no personal problems with the paramedic.


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