Paramedic's death in Indiana highlights Pitt study on EMS fatigue
An paramedic in Indiana was killed after police say the ambulance driver fell asleep and crashed into another car, according to a CBS report.
The incident comes after a University of Pittsburgh analysis highlighted how fatigue remains a widespread problem for EMS workers because many work 24-hour or longer shifts.
“It's a huge problem, systemwide,” said Daniel Patterson, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
According to Indiana State Police, the ambulance was transporting a 5-month-old patient to a hospital early Monday in Indianapolis when the driver, 26-year-old Christine Wesner, failed to stop at a red light, crashing into a car. The driver of the other car, a Dodge Dart, had the right of way and was in an intersection at the time, police said.
The crash caused the ambulance to roll over, and 32-year-old EMT Mousa Chaban of Mishawaka, Ind., was partially ejected from the back of the ambulance. He died of his injuries. The young patient and the child's mother were in the back of the ambulance but were not hurt. Neither was Wesner.
Wesner reportedly fell asleep prior to the crash. The Miami County, Indiana, Prosecutors Office will determine whether charges will be filed in the case.
The driver of the Dodge was transported to a hospital with a broken collar bone. A passenger in the Dodge was transported by ambulance with a non-life-threatening head injury.
Police say the crash is still under investigation. They don't believe the use of alcohol or narcotics contributed to the crash.
Patterson, also a paramedic for Parkview EMS in O'Hara, was lead author of an analysis written by a team of scientists and published last week in the journal Prehospital Emergency Care that recommends five guidelines to help reduce EMS burnout.
One of the recommendations is to limit EMS shifts to less than 24 hours.
“The safety of the clinician, of the patient and the public are all at risk due to fatigue,” Patterson said. “Operating the ambulance is only one aspect of EMS care. Most of the work EMS clinicians do is actually patient care.”
Of the Indiana crash, he said, “Just a sad case for all involved. Devastating for the patient, their family and the crew member's families.”
Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @Bencschmitt.