Cincinnati City Manager: Man Dies of Stroke After Neighbor Calls Cincinnati 911 and No Emergency Response Comes

An email from Cincinnati City Manager Patrick Duhaney reveals that a January call to 911 didn't trigger an emergency response for a man who was having a stroke, possibly because a neighbor said he might not want help. The man later died.

Mar 2, 2020 at 2:19 pm
City officials outside Cincinnati's Emergency Call Center - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
City officials outside Cincinnati's Emergency Call Center

Cincinnati's Emergency Call Center is again at the center of scrutiny after a man suffered a stroke in January and died after the ECC failed to send help, an email today from Cincinnati City Manager Patrick Duhaney to members of city council reveals.

A call-taker with the city's 911 service has been suspended related to the incident, according to the email. The deceased man's name has not been released by the city.

Calling from another unit in the apartment building on Groesbeck Road, the caller indicated that the man suffering a stroke might not want to answer questions or accept help, but also warned that his condition seemed grave. At one point, the caller said "he's gonna die," according to the email from Duhaney.

"He's getting worse and worse," the caller said at another point.

The call taker told the man's neighbor that emergency responders couldn't help him without his consent.

"If he doesn’t want help, they won’t do anything, he has to want to be helped," the dispatcher said. Even though the caller indicated the man's serious medical condition and provided a location within 45 seconds of the call's initiation, no emergency crews were dispatched.

In his email, Duhaney said the call-taker "violated multiple established and written ECC processes and procedures" and "should have taken a more appropriate course of action." 

The employee's suspension with pay will continue until the end of a disciplinary inquiry into the incident.

"What took place on the night of Jan. 12 is nothing short of a tragedy," Duhaney wrote in the email. "It's unclear if the individual would have lived or died, but the actions of this call-taker undermined the possibility of a positive outcome in this situation."

Another call to 911 the next day revealed the man had died, according to Duhaney's memo. 

The revelations about the call center come after a big push to improve response at the ECC — including $454,000 in upgrades and 11 new employees — following the death of Cincinnati teen Kyle Plush in April 2018. Plush died after calling 911 multiple times because he was pinned under the bench seat of his van. Officers were dispatched to the parking lot where Plush was trapped, but they didn't get out of their vehicles. An investigation by Cincinnati Police suggested that ECC staff and responding officers made errors during that call.