Bertie EMT’s cleared

Published 11:42 am Tuesday, July 12, 2016

WINDSOR – Following a meeting with a eyewitness and inquiries the county made to the NC Office of Emergency Medical Services regarding patient care review and personnel protocol, it appears there will be no further action taken regarding questions over Bertie County EMS’ actions taken in response to a stabbing fatality that occurred in Aulander in May.

On May 29, Bertie County EMS were dispatched to 512 Main Street in Aulander after a Lifeline call was received stating that a female was bleeding.

EMS arrived at the scene before law enforcement and found Teffiney Williams, 29, lying near the woods by the house of Thurman Wiggins with what were multiple trauma wounds. Unaware of any circumstances beyond what they initially observed, the EMT’s retrieved Williams across the yard to the ambulance where she was transported to Vidant Bertie Hospital in Windsor and where she was later pronounced dead.

At the June 6 meeting of the Bertie County Commissioners, several citizens, including Williams family members, questioned whether the EMS personnel followed protocol in their response to the call.

These queries ranged from the method in which the two responding EMT’s moved a bleeding Williams from the edge of the yard towards the ambulance, to whether the pair of trained medics appeared to be too frightened to leave the safety of their vehicle when they first arrived.

Bertie EMS Director Mitch Cooper along with EMS Medical Director, Dr. Mike Lowry, responded to the citizens’ concerns, as well as tried to provide clarification of State EMS protocols.

Since none of the citizens at the Commissioner’s meeting claimed to have eyewitnessed the incident, Cooper arranged to meet with an actual eyewitness to the incident and the EMT’s actions at a later date.

That meeting with the eyewitness took place in Windsor on June 16.

The witness said that the EMT’s – quote – “did everything they could.” They stated the emergency personnel took care of the victim, of themselves, and their partner.

The witness stated they were visiting with relatives who live near the Wiggins residence over the Memorial Day weekend. They said they observed Williams collapsing in the yard and saw a “naked male” appear briefly in the doorway; it was right afterward that one of the witness’ relatives made the Lifeline call to county EMS.

When asked about Williams’ status when the EMT’s arrived, the witness did not mention seeing any hesitation, but did observe caution on the part of the emergency personnel as they approached the victim.

The EMT’s report stated, and the witness concurred, that the stretcher was carried from the ambulance and placed on the ground midway between the victim and the emergency vehicle. The witness recounted that Williams was initially face-down, but was turned over on her back and – as stated in the EMT’s formal report – carried in a ‘fireman’s drag’ with each EMT lifting her by a single arm and moving Williams to the stretcher.

Once on the cot, the witness said they even assisted the EMT’s in placing Williams into the ambulance.

On June 20, the witness appeared in closed session before the County Commissioners to repeat his testimony and answer any questions. One Commissioner went on to say county EMS personnel must be – quote – “vigilant in training and preparation in order to respond accordingly”. Cooper told the Commissioners that his department was ready to meet that challenge.

County Manager Scott Sauer said in the meantime, the Commissioners were very much interested that the air is cleared with respect to the concerns, confusion and public comment regarding the Williams situation with regard to the EMS response.

Sauer said the county did an internal review but requested to have the incident reviewed by the state Office of EMS (NCOEMS) review board, the regulatory division of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.

NCOEMS Regional Director Allen Johnson responded that based on his department’s initial screening, the Williams incident did not meet the standards warranting a review. Earlier, Paul Allen of the state HHS department said unless there is an alleged regulatory infraction or complaint of malpractice in the delivery of patient care, the incident did not qualify for review.

Allen reminded the county that each EMS System is required to have a process to provide quality improvement for care provided within their county. They urged Bertie County to use the county’s Peer Review Committee to review the call themselves to determine if any violations of local protocols, policies, and procedures occurred, and that the Bertie County Medical Director (Lowry) also review the county’s procedure.

Based on those statements and facts of the case following the statements of the witness and the transparent request for a state review, Cooper said that no disciplinary action against the responding EMT’s was warranted, and none would be taken.