BATESBURG-LEESVILLE, S.C. — Following a scary accident over the weekend, a family in Leesville is seeking more accountability for Lexington County EMS workers' response time.
It was a normal Friday for Kena Tolen-Cunningham and her mom Annette, but tides turned quickly when Kena walked outside of her cousin's house.
"I stepped up the steps and I went to turn around and step down the steps and I missed two steps, fell and heard my leg crack," Tolen-Cunningham said. "I had two babies without medicine and this is worse than that. The worst pain ever."
Kena tells News 19 her family called 911, waited, waited some more and then called again.
"My niece had called and then I called like 10 or 20 minutes after but maybe longer than that because she laid there for a pretty good while," Annette Brown, Kena's mom, said. "It was devastating because we couldn't do anything to help her, we couldn't even get her up off the ground."
Kena's mom explains they ultimately made the decision to just drive Kena to the emergency room themselves.
Kena shared documents with News 19, showing she was admitted to the 8th floor of Lexington Medical Center Friday and discharged Sunday for an ankle fracture.
According to Lexington County EMS Chief Brian Hood, when a 911 call comes through, they evaluate the level of severity.
"We've had calls where folks have gotten a gnat in their eye and they feel like there's still something there and they're concerned and they'll call 911 for that emergency," Hood said.
He explains an influx of low severity or low acuity calls, specifically during the COVID era has contributed to less availability of EMS workers being able to respond to high acuity calls.
"We try to handle all of our high acuity calls in 12 minutes or less, medium acuity calls in 24 minutes or less and then the low acuity calls in 36 minutes or less," Hood said.
Hood confirms with News 19 an EMS supervisor did arrive on scene in this situation in Leesville, but the patient had already left before the supervisor got there.
The EMS chief tells our team that fractures are general medium acuity.
"On our way leaving my cousin's house we passed the first responders and my husband was flashing the lights to stop them but they didn't stop," Tolen-Cunningham said.
"We use a system status management process to cover the most geography with each ambulance that we can and then as an ambulance gets utilized out of a community, then we have to move all the other ambulances to try to cover as best we can with what's remaining," Hood said.
Hood tells News 19 they also have 15 vacancies they're still trying to fill.
According to the Lexington County EMS chief, county council is addressing the need.
They are in the middle of evaluating a private ambulance company to help handle the lowest acuity calls, like a stubbed toe for example.
This would provide several additional EMS trucks to the existing fleet.