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EMS Orders Investigation of Dispute With Pregnant Woman

February 14, 1994

NEW YORK (AP) _ A pregnant woman who wanted to be taken to the hospital of her choice won an argument Sunday with an ambulance crew, but her child died shortly after being born there, officials said.

The ambulance crew had wanted to take Tracy Ortega to a hospital that is closer to her home. But Ortega wanted to go to St. John’s Catholic Hospital because her obstetrician, Inok Rhee, is on staff there, said hospital spokesman Steve Phelps.

Phelps said he could not provide any information on the cause of the child’s death, but said Rhee ″feels it was not possible to determine if a delay in treatment may have had an effect on the outcome for the baby.″

EMS said in a statement the ambulance arrived at the woman’s home at 3:23 a.m. and was en route to the hospital by 3:43 a.m.

Phelps said that when Ortega arrived at the hospital at 4:10 a.m., doctors diagnosed a ″baby in distress.″ The infant died at 4:24 p.m., minutes after birth by Caesarean section, he said.

The ambulance crew, a man and a woman, were suspended without pay while the city Emergency Medical Service investigates, said Jeri Love-Graves, a spokeswoman for the Health and Hospitals Corp., the parent agency of EMS.

Ortega’s family, which complained about the dispute, also said she was made to walk from her apartment to the ambulance although she was in labor, Love- Graves said.

Ortega remained in the hospital on Sunday night, in satisfactory condition. Her family could not be reached for comment; phone numbers for her father and sister were not listed.

In December, then-Mayor-elect Rudolph Giuliani was criticized for arguing on behalf of a mother who wanted an EMS crew to take her son, whose leg was broken, to a hospital where her husband was a staff surgeon. The ambulance crew wanted to take the boy to a closer hospital.

EMS officials said Giuliani shouldn’t have interfered with ambulance crew members who had to make decisions based on their own judgment.

Giuliani said Sunday he was unfamiliar with the latest case.

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