Concerns with EMS response times in Starr County

    Concerns with EMS response times in Starr County (Source CBS 4 News)

    Residents in Starr County are raising red flags about how long it takes for first responders to reach them in an emergency.

    One woman said help wasn't there in time when her husband had a heart attack.

    The medical assistance Paula Zarate needed three years ago after her husband was bit by a rattlesnake never arrived.

    “I called 911, they didn't want to go out of their way to meet me,” Zarate said in a phone interview with CBS 4. “They wanted me to drive to the hospital."

    However, on her way to the hospital, Zarate said she was stopped by law enforcement and that was when EMS finally came to her husband’s aid.

    Although Zarate’s husband wouldn’t have made it either way, she says having medical presence would have been comforting.

    "I really didn't know what to do,” Zarate said.

    Since the incident, Zarate has left the Valley.

    In addition, one law enforcement official in Starr County who is not authorized to speak to CBS 4 about this issue said he has escorted people with medical emergencies in their personal vehicles, which he says is a common occurrence in Starr County.

    On two other occasions, he has either been involved or personally witnessed officers performing CPR for over 15 minutes while waiting for an ambulance.

    The president of the Starr County Memorial Hospital Board, Dr. Jose Vasquez said they are aware of these issues as they are the only 911 provider in the county.

    "There have been single episodes where our units are all tied up offering service to other patients,” Vasquez said. “And yes. That has caused delays in a specific case, but I wouldn't say that this is a general problem."

    Vasquez adds, it's also due to growth in county population and said the hospital currently has six units and in some cases, they're transporting patients to Hidalgo County.

    As Starr County continues to grow, Vasquez said the hospital board is adding more ambulance units as well as recruiting medical personnel.

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