A nugget of EMS organizational wisdom every day. #37 Leave the spin for the gym.
When I became the Head Coach at CSL EMS, it was only a matter of weeks before I received my first complaint from the public about our service.
It was from a gentleman who was absolutely incensed that one of our response vehicles was parked in a visitor’s slot in the parking lot of his condo building for more than hour. Furthermore, he was unimpressed by the crew tying up an elevator for almost the entire time they were in the building. And finally, he questioned the necessity for an ambulance, two firetrucks and their crews who arrived 10 minutes later and stayed on-scene for almost as long as the EMS crew.
There were, the gentleman wrote, far too many flashing red lights on the street for his liking.
I had no experience nor formal training for dealing with complaints. I formulated a response and just before I was going to call the gentleman I decided to run my strategy by my boss, the Assistant City Manager.
I told him about the complaint.
He asked me to explain.
I told him one of our crews had rolled on a non-emergency quality of life check-in on a client. While they were on-scene they were made aware of someone in medical distress on an elevator. When they went to verify that situation, they arrived to find a patient in cardiac arrest on a tiny elevator stalled a few feet below the proper floor opening. They initiated resuscitation efforts and requested a rescue response from the fire department as well as an ambulance from Urgences Sante [Montreal EMS].
It was a lengthy and difficult elevator rescue and resuscitation although, ultimately, the patient had a pulse and was breathing on his own when he was loaded aboard the ambulance for the transfer to the ER.
“So, what are you going to tell the man who complained?”
“Uh, I thought I’d call him up and ask if he’s got a few minutes available so I can visit with him. And then my plan is to tell him the truth. I can explain to him every step of the process and why we needed additional resources on location. I can also explain to him that our crew had made arrangements to park in the visitor’s slot so their truck wouldn’t be right out in front of the building while they were visiting on a non-emergency basis. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way. Fortunately, they happened to be exactly where they were needed at a critical moment in time.”
“So, you’re going with the truth then?”
“Uh, yeah. Is that okay?”
“That’s perfect. Share the information widely. Let the facts speak for themselves. Leave the spin for the gym, my friend.”
Be well. Practice big medicine.