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Union Cites 911 Error in Boy’s Death

November 30, 2001

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) _ Dispatchers were slow to send medical help for an infant who later died in an ambulance, and emergency workers were blaming new computer software.

Firefighters, police officers and dispatchers began criticizing the dispatch system as inefficient and potentially dangerous soon after it went into use in September in a new $4 million communications center.

It wasn’t known whether 2-month-old Mohamed Abubakar would have survived with faster help on Sunday.

The baby was gasping for breath when his mother called 911. Police were sent, but the call went unnoticed for six minutes on a fire dispatcher’s computer screen, The Grand Rapids Press reported Friday.

Firefighters are supposed to respond first to medical emergencies.

By the time firefighters arrived 11 minutes after the 911 call, the 2-month-old lay dying.

``Whatever is meant to be is meant to be, but I think they could have done a better job,″ said mother Hodan Ahmed, 25, whose child was born with defective heart valves.

Firefighter union leaders said glitches have included computers freezing and a screen going blank. They said the system has led to lost calls, a police officer being sent to make an arrest without backup and delays in response times.

``When we start losing people, it’s not good. What kind of value do you put on one life?″ asked union President Tony Beurkens.

Fire officials were working on solutions with Vision Aire, the North Carolina-based company that sold the $600,000 software, he said.

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