911 dispatcher disciplined after telling Gary caller 'we don't have any medics'

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GARY, Ind. (WLS) -- A 911 dispatcher has been disciplined for her handling of an emergency call at a health club in Gary, Ind. The gym patron who needed help survived, but he's worried there's a larger issue when you call 911 in Lake County.

"I was just passed out," said Clement Ervin, who was at the Hudson-Campbell Fitness Center in Gary when the incident happened last month. His friend called 911, explained his condition, and got this response from the dispatcher.

Dispatcher: "Okay, we're kind of short on medics so it's going to be a minute."
Caller: "You said who?"
Dispatcher: "We don't have any medics and it's going to be a minute."

Caller: "Okay, let me take him to the hospital."

The Lake County dispatcher offered no additional help. Her boss says that was the error.

"Being a dispatcher, myself included, you don't tell someone you don't have resources, you contact the agency and tell them your problem, then they're the ones that guide the resources," said Brian Hitchcock, executive director, Lake County 911 Department.

And since an ambulance was not available, Gary officials said firefighters right across the street from the gym could have responded. But the Lake County dispatcher never transferred the call to them.

"The call did not officially go through the Gary dispatch. And because of that, a unit was not sent," said LaLosa Dent Burns, Gary spokeswoman.

"It's unacceptable because a person already died," Ervin said.

In June, Burt Sanders died of a heart attack inside a Gary church after his 911 call was mishandled. Lake County fired a dispatcher and suspended another one. That's why Ervin, who wants to raise awareness, is now speaking out about his experience.

"He passed. I'm glad mine wasn't that serious. But, you know, it could have been," Ervin said.

The executive director of the 911 department said a new, state-of-the-art dispatch center will open next month, and all the dispatchers will be trained under a national standard.

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