Snoops' ambulance use queried Dying man treated by backup crew

August 09, 1991|By Paul Shread Gary Gately of The Anne Arundel County Sun contributed to this article.

ANNAPOLIS -- An Annapolis alderman is calling for an investigation into the death of a man who was treated by an Anne Arundel County ambulance crew because an Annapolis city ambulance was occupied taking the state's official hostess, Hilda Mae Snoops, to a Baltimore hospital.

Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins authorized one of two city ambulances to take Mrs. Snoops, Gov. William Donald Schaefer's longtime companion, to Good Samaritan Hospital on July 24.

Mrs. Snoops, who has been suffering from an undisclosed illness, had fallen in the governor's mansion, hit her head and "badly injured her back," said Frank Traynor, the governor's press secretary. Mr. Traynor said she needed to go to Baltimore because her physician doesn't have privileges at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis.

With one ambulance in Baltimore and another out on a call, an Annapolis man who went into cardiac arrest had to be treated by a county ambulance crew. The man, Thomas C. Sharps, 71, died.

City and state officials insist that the county ambulance took no longer to get to the man's house than the city ambulance would have traveling on congested streets. Mr. Traynor said that it wasn't the first time Mrs. Snoops, 66, or someone else in Annapolis had been taken to Baltimore by a city ambulance.

"If they're saying that because of her being taken to Baltimore, that this person didn't get the treatment he deserved, that's b-------," Mr. Traynor said. "Even to link the two is unnecessary, unfair and a cheap shot. The only reason it's an issue is because it's her."

The ambulance in Baltimore with Mrs. Snoops, which would have been the one to respond to the Sharps' home shortly after 10 p.m., was stationed 2.7 miles from the Sharps' house. The other city ambulance was out on three other emergency calls. The ambulance that came from Riva in Anne Arundel County was 4.6 miles away.

Capt. George Sherlock, the Annapolis Fire Department's spokesman, said the county ambulance acts as a backup for the city. He said Mr. Sharps didn't go into full arrest until after the ambulance arrived.

But Annapolis Alderman Carl O. Snowden said a breach of firdepartment policy may have inadvertently led to Mr. Sharps' death. He said he will ask the Annapolis city council to investigate the case.

"The question is not whether the mayor did a political favor fothe governor," Mr. Snowden said. "The question is whether that preferential treatment may have resulted in an unintentional tragedy."

A member of the governor's mansion protection unit called the Annapolis Fire Department at 8:21 p.m. July 24 to ask for a city ambulance to take Mrs. Snoops to Baltimore. The battalion chief on duty refused, so the state official called Mr. Hopkins. The mayor authorized the ambulance to transport Mrs. Snoops.

Fire department protocol requires city ambulances to transport patients to the nearest hospital, but Mr. Hopkins didn't know the department's policy, and Fire Chief Edward P. Sherlock was unavailable at the time, Captain Sherlock said.

Mr. Hopkins made his decision based on the city code, which allows the mayor to authorize municipal vehicles to leave the city, Captain Sherlock said. Chief Sherlock has since informed the mayor's office and the governor's mansion of department policy. In the future, Mrs. Snoops will have to take a private ambulance to Bal-timore, he said.

"That this man died really upsets people and I can understand that," Mr. Hopkins said. "But I don't feel that anybody did anything wrong, and I'm sure we will respond in a different manner in the future."

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