Close to home


Bill Coty’s personal experience with the city’s rescue service puts a spotlight on a policy that is generally adhered to but on occasions is relaxed.

Following the removal of his cancerous prostate, scarring developed that prevented Coty from relieving his bladder. On four occasions he underwent procedures opening the blockage. Then, on the morning of Nov. 23, while in extreme pain that doubled him over, Coty’s wife called 9-1-1. Coty called his doctor who told him they would be ready to help him at Miriam Hospital in Providence. The rescue arrived promptly, and from there it seemed this would be a straightforward run. It wasn’t.

As Fire Chief James McLaughlin explained last week, the department’s rescue companies that collectively average about 13,400 runs annually are a service to hospital emergency rooms, not a cab to a doctor’s office. Also, as a practice since it generally is the closest hospital, rescues use Kent Hospital in Warwick. Rhode Island Hospital, which is the state’s only level one trauma hospital, is also used depending on the circumstances of the case and proximity. Further away, Miriam is not a frequent destination.

When the rescue arrived, Coty was told he would be taken to Kent. Coty knew if he went to Kent he would undergo an evaluation that would delay the procedure he needed to find relief. He demanded to be taken to Miriam and the officer in charge insisted he be taken to Kent, pointing out that the extended trip to Miriam took a rescue out of service, leaving other Warwick citizens facing an emergency vulnerable.

The standoff that caught the attention of neighbors was resolved when Coty insisted on talking to the battalion chief. He was transported to Miriam, but during the trip he chastised and belittled for compromising the city’s rescue service.

Following the incident, the chief and then Representative-elect Camille Vella-Wilkinson, who Coty contacted, visited him. The chief explained the department’s policy.

One would think this is the end of the story. It’s not. Rightfully, Coty feels he was mistreated. He wants the Board of Public Safety to review the case.

Coty deserves an apology. But the chief is right. Warwick rescue is not a cab service and, as best it can, the department must be ready to handle the next emergency, and that means staying close to home.


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