Hillsborough County, Fla., has suspended four fire-rescue medics for refusing to give a black 30-year-old woman suffering stroke symptoms a ride in an ambulance.
According to the victim’s mother, she and her daughter, Crystle Galloway, were told they couldn’t afford the ambulance ride. Galloway had just given birth to baby via a cesarian section five days before.
As the Tampa Bay Times reports, the four medics have been accused of not even checking for vital signs for Galloway, as well as falsifying paperwork. They were placed on paid administrative leave on Friday.
Galloway’s mother, Nicole Black, spoke to WPBF-TV News this week about her interaction with the medics on July 4, when she received a call from her 7-year-old granddaughter saying something was wrong with Galloway. When Black arrived at her daughter’s house, she found her slumped over a tub, drooling from the mouth.
Black called 911, and the Times reports that the emergency call was given coding informing the responding medics that Galloway was suffering a possible stroke.
But when the paramedics arrived, Black say she and her daughter were told they couldn’t afford the ambulance.
“They didn’t take any vitals. They didn’t take any blood pressure. They didn’t check her temperature,” Black said. This was confirmed by the Hillsborough County administrator. Black also says she told the two medic units that responded that her daughter had recently undergone a C-section.
“They never asked us if we had insurance, which we do,” Black told WPBF-TV. Later, as the medics were putting Galloway in Black’s car, they reiterated that Black driving her sick daughter to the hospital was what was best, since they couldn’t afford the ambulance.
Black tells WPBF-TV she felt stereotyped by the very people sent to help her daughter.
The medics dispute this claim, saying that Black volunteered to take her daughter to the hospital. However, no informed consent form was signed to prove that such a conversation took place. Even worse, Hillsborough County says medics indicated that the patient could not be found, reports the Times, which was clearly a lie.
According to the Times, Galloway was so sick that once Black had driven her daughter to Brandon Regional Hospital, Galloway had to be airlifted and taken by helicopter across town to Tampa General Hospital.
Galloway went into a coma from which she never woke up. She died days later, just short of her 31st birthday.
“My daughter begged for her life; she begged,” Black said about the medics’ refusal to take her in their ambulance. She has started a GoFundMe to help care for her three young grandchildren, who are now left without a mother.
A disciplinary hearing for the four medics—who between them, have 25 years of experience working for the Hillsborough Fire Rescue Department—has been tentatively set for July 31.
“I cannot trust these individuals to work under my medical license,” wrote Fire Rescue medical director Michael Lozano, in a statement. “I feel they do not meet the minimum standards set by myself and the department.”
In total, writes People magazine, the entire trip to the hospital, which was just three blocks away from Galloway’s home, would have cost $600.