Report: EMTs followed protocol in Sugarloaf accident

The Chronicle Herald

David Morse, 41, of King­ston, Nova Scotia, is shown in this family photo.

AUGUSTA — The state board that oversees the licensing of paramedics and emergency medical technicians has voted to dismiss a complaint filed by the widow of a Canadian man who died after a ski accident at Sugarloaf Mountain in January.

A report issued Wednesday by Jay Bradshaw, director Maine EMS, details the findings of an investigation into the treatment and death of David Morse, 41, of Nova Scotia.

Morse's widow, Dana Morse, had claimed she was kicked out of the NorthStar Ambulance that was taking her husband to a hospital and left on the side of the road in a snowstorm.

"It's just an awful situation," Bradshaw said Wednesday. He said Morse and his wife and their children were on a "mini-vacation in Maine and on the last day of that vacation."

David Morse was injured when he lost control of his skis in soft snow on the side of the Timberline Trail and skied into a tree. It was snowing at the time of the ski accident, which occurred at about 3:45 p.m. 

The ski patrol requested paramedics at 4:12 p.m., describing Morse's injuries as serious, including a possible broken leg and internal bleeding.

He said several factors, including the stormy weather, made treatment of Morse's injuries likely unsuccessful.

"The nearest hospital that could have provided the type of surgical intervention that a patient like that requires was Lewiston," Bradshaw said. "And the nature of his injuries were such that it wouldn't have made any difference, unfortunately."

The EMS report confirms that Dana Morse was left, apparently unintentionally, at the side of the road as she tried to move from the front seat to the patient compartment of the ambulance.

The report states that after its investigation, the board voted to dismiss the complaint, but that one of the paramedics involved would receive a letter of guidance in his personnel file regarding proper documentation.

The report details several breakdowns in communication and reveals that a member of the Sugarloaf Ski Patrol was asked to drive the ambulance and was at the wheel when Morse's wife left the ambulance.

Dana Morse, a nurse practitioner, was concerned about the treatment her husband was receiving, according to the report.

"From the front seat, the patient’s wife could look into the rear of the ambulance and stated that she could see that emergency treatment was in progress, knew that this would not have a good outcome and told the ski patroller that she needed to be in the back with her husband," according to the report. "The ski patroller remembers hearing (Dana Morse) express a need to be with her children and her request to stop the vehicle. What is undisputed is that the patient’s wife exited the ambulance and the ambulance drove away."

The report confirms Dana Morse's account that she tried to catch the ambulance as it drove off with her dying husband inside.

"As the ambulance continued down the access road, the patient’s wife chased after it and then flagged down two cars that were heading in the opposite direction (toward the mountain)," the report states.

"The driver of the second car reported that the patient’s wife initially wanted to try and catch the ambulance, but it was snowing heavily and the driver said she did not recall seeing an ambulance. The patient’s wife then asked to go back to the First Aid Station, which is where she was taken."

According to the report, the paramedics — upon realizing Dana Morse was no longer in the ambulance — contacted Franklin Memorial Hospital to notify them she was en route there with a friend.

Also, according to the report, when Dana Morse arrived at the hospital to inquire about her husband, a nurse called the paramedic base in Carrabassett Valley and handed the phone to her. The paramedic informed Dana Morse that her husband had died en route to the hospital and that his body had been returned to the First Aid Station at Sugarloaf.

The Maine State Medical Examiner later determined that David Morse died from blunt-force trauma to his chest.

An independent review of the investigation by Dr. Michael Baumann, an experienced emergency physician and interim chief of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Maine Medical Center, determined that NorthStar's staff followed state protocol.

Baumann noted that "while some of the treatment provided could have been initiated sooner, it would not have affected the unfortunate outcome."

Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, which owns and operates NorthStar, issued a statement Wednesday from President and CEO Rebecca Ryder.

She extended appreciation to the NorthStar crew at the ambulance base in Carrabassett Valley for "their professionalism and dedication throughout this difficult ordeal."

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Comments

Licia Kuenning's picture

Re: Jeff Johnson's comment

The SJ notified me of Jeff Johnson's comment, although it is addressed to Dan Breton, not to me, but here are a few thoughts of mine. Jeff writes,

> Why would the SJ not follow up with the victim's wife, and create
> some controversy in the story... that would sell more copies, and
> get more views.

I don't know why the SJ often tells only one side of a story that cries out for more views, but this is not the only instance of that tendency. My guess is that when they get a packaged report from some government agency it is easier just to publish or summarize the report than to do investigative reporting.

> Why would the SJ try to bury the arguably most exciting part of
> the story? Are they deliberately trying to cover for Northstar?

Again, I think it is just easier to ignore the part of the story that hasn't been put in their lap. I don't know whether the SJ would deliberately try to cover for Northstar, but I do think the Maine EMS office is doing that.

> Is the governor somehow involved?

I doubt it, but Dan would probably disagree with me. My own impression is that Franklin Memorial Hospital is used to being treated as if they were God, and this goes back long before the election of Paul LePage to the governorship. How we got into this situation I don't know, as I have been living in Maine only 7 years.

Since my first comment Scott Thistle, speaking for SJ, has said that "we did try to contact Mrs. Morse in Nova Scotia" but "we were unsuccessful in these attempts." It might help if I knew more about what these attempts amounted to.

Licia Kuenning's picture

Contacting Mrs. Morse

Thank you for your response, Scott Thistle--I would like to know more about your attempts to reach Dana Morse. Is it your impression that she is deliberately ignoring inquiries? Or how seriously did you try? She seemed very determined, when this incident first occurred, to make her story known; but since then it has been impossible to learn her reaction to developments. I tried writing to her c/o the Chronicle Herald in Nova Scotia and asked them to forward my letter, but they did not reply, and I have no way of knowing whether she received my communication. I don't know her address.

Licia Kuenning's picture

What's her address?

I have no opinion on the political-partisan aspects of this. My beef is that Franklin Memorial Hospital/Franklin Community Health Network has way too much power and isn't meaningfully accountable to anyone. It's been that way as long as I've had any dealings with them, regardless of who is in office in Augusta. I want to get Dana Morse's reaction to this report, but somehow no newspaper has managed to include that in their story. Can someone please tell me her address? You can reach me at 299 High St., Farmington 04938, or at licia@qhpress.org, if you don't want to post it here. Thanks.

SCOTT THISTLE's picture
staff

Thanks for your comments

Licia,
We didn't note in this story that we did try to contact Mrs. Morse in Nova Scotia to get her response or reaction to this report. We were unsuccessful in those attempts. We should have included a line in this report to that effect.

 's picture

Sure

Sure

Licia Kuenning's picture

Outrageous

This is just outrageous. We are asked to believe that the only reason the ambulance crew dumped Dana Morse by the side of the road in a snowstorm, after she requested to sit in back with her dying husband, is that they thought she had said she wanted to be with her children! Her children weren't by the side of the road, and if this had in fact happened it wouldn't have taken the ambulance crew 3 months to come up with the story.

Where are the facts on the basis of which Maine EMS concluded that Ms. Morse's story was untrue and the EMTs' story was the truth? None are presented.

What is Dana Morse's reply? Didn't it even occur to Sun Journal reporters to ask her?

 's picture

Give it up, Ms. Kuenning,

Give it up, Ms. Kuenning, the clan is circling the wagons, lead by the SJ staff. That's the official story, and unless the poor woman decides to sue, it will be the only one.

Jeff Johnson's picture

Journalism business

Dan,
While most newspapers do have a political agenda, their job is to make money. Why would the SJ not follow up with the victim's wife, and create some controversy in the story... that would sell more copies, and get more views.

Your "Circling the wagons" comment confuses my already diminished mental capacity. Why would the SJ try to bury the arguably most exciting part of the story? Are they deliberately trying to cover for Northstar? Is the governor somehow involved?

It's time for you to head to Marden's, pick up another roll of tinfoil, and add another layer to your hat. Be careful though... they're watching... the black helicopters are out there... sent by LePaige.....

Bob Wright's picture

Dan, someone once said,

Dan, someone once said, "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."

Good advice heh.

 's picture

Too bad you never follow your

Too bad you never follow your own advice.

 's picture

Everyone did everything they

Everyone did everything they should have done, but ooops the patient died and his wife was left by the side of the road. Nice to see the lepage cover our butt memo reached all aspects of this state.

Jennifer Chretien's picture

Dan, seriously? This is

Dan, seriously? This is about medicine not politics. Unfortunately it's not uncommon in medicine for people to die even when everyone does everything they should and can to help save a patient's life. Mrs Morse's being left on the side of the road was very unfortunate and in my opinion a case of poor communication on the part of both she and the driver of the ambulance. I don't believe it in any way reflects the level of medical care provided to Mr Morse. Maine Medical Center's interim chief of the Dept of Emergency Medicine also reviewed this investigation and came to the same conclusion that the medical personal did everything they should have done. Did the big bad Governor influence him too? No, I'm not a LePage supporter, I simply don't believe he had anything to do with this investigation. I would trust the medical personnel from North Star with my family and friend's any day of the week.

 's picture

you're entitled to your

you're entitled to your opinion, however I'm not convinced.

Heather Sullivan's picture

Wow! Seriously Dan?!

And how the heck did Lepage come about into this?? His name wasn't mentioned at all. It was the EMS board that cleared them. Read the facts in detail rather than assuming because assumtions get you no where!

 's picture

Gee Heather, who do you think

Gee Heather, who do you think APPOINTS the EMS board? Everything that goes on in HIS administration falls on him. Stop being a lepage apologist.

Jeff Johnson's picture

It's the Gov's Fault!

Dan,
This morning my cat threw up on the rug. I cut myself shaving. One of my clients disagreed with me. I dropped a cell phone call with my girlfriend. Someone cut me off in traffic. I paid $4.019 for gas, and my after-dinner adult beverage of choice was not as satisfying as I had predicted it would be.
Thank you for giving me the courage to blame these tragedies on the one person who is obviously the cause of all my life's dissappointment: Governor LePaige.
Your brilliant insight into the cause of all my problems... shockingly insightful!
Dan Breton for the next Governor!

Putz.

SCOTT THISTLE's picture
staff

Way off base and just flat-out wrong.

Dan,

The majority of this current board are Democratic appointees.

http://www.maine.gov/dps/ems/boards/ems_board/index.html

There are 17 spots on the board and only 7 are LePage appointees.

There are two vacant spots - including the public representative.

But as you will also notice - several board members have been re-nominated to serve by seceding governors of varying political affiliations.

I think it's very unfair of you to ascribe political motives to all of these individuals carte blanche -- most on this board have chosen careers working towards saving the lives of others and have volunteered much time to that ends in their respective communities. Show some civility, appreciation and respect instead of trying to cast everything in a political light, especially when you are so far off the mark.

It's a cheap, easy political shot to rip off your cuff, but check your facts first. All of the folks on this board deserve a little appreciation and they have not ALL been appointed by any single governor.

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