DALLAS -- An ambulance dispatcher who argued for several minutes with a man as his stepmother was dying was reassigned to other duties Tuesday, a fire department official said.
Larry Boff, whose 60-year-old stepmother died Jan. 5, has filed a $300,000 damage claim against the city as a result of the incident. Officials said a full investigation may be completed this week.
Mike Jones, fire department section chief, said 17-year veteran nurse Billie Myrick was placed on paid administrative leave one month after the incident, but was returned toduty after two days' leave.
Jones said Ms. Myrick was reassigned to other duties Tuesday because of stress and pressure from publicity surrounding the incident.
Boff said he called the fire department shortly before 11 p.m. on Jan. 5, after his stepmother, Lillian Boff, began having trouble breathing.
Dallas television station KDFW aired fire department tapes of the incident Monday. The station reported some 300 calls since the news program from people complaining of similar treatment.
It was not determined if Ms. Myrick was involved in any of the other instances, but KDFW has filed a request under the state open records law to obtain tapes of other such conversations, the station said.
On the tape, Ms. Myrick was told Mrs. Boff was ill. Ms. Myrick asked to speak to the woman.
The tape continued:
Boff: 'No, you can't. She seems like she's incoherent.'
Myrick: 'Why is she incoherent?'
Boff: 'How the hell do I know?'
Myrick: 'Sir, don't curse me.'
Boff: 'Well, I don't care. These stupid questions you're asking me ... Give me someone who knows what they are doing. Why don't you just send an ambulance out here?'
Myrick: 'Sir, we only come out on life-threatening emergencies.'
Boff: 'Well, this is a life-threatening emergency.'
Myrick: 'Hold on, sir. I'll let you speak with an officer.'
On the tape, supervisor Don Greene came on the line and he also asked to speak to the woman. Boff's response contained the word 'hell,' and Greene threatened to hang up.
Ms. Myrick came back on the line and insisted on talking to Mrs. Boff. When Boff told Ms. Myrick that Mrs. Boff couldn't talk, Ms. Myrick told Boff to give the woman the telephone anyway.
Boff rang off, saying he would call a hospital. A few minutes later, Boff's roommate Dennis Fleming called back, and again Ms. Myrick insisted on talking to Mrs. Boff.
'She cannot talk,' said Fleming. 'She is just out of it. In fact he (Boff) is going in there now. He thinks she's dead.'
At 11:01 p.m., about eight minutes after the first call, the fire department sent an ambulance to Boff's home. Mrs. Boff was pronounced dead at 11:30 p.m. of heart disease.
Jones said his department uses nurses to screen calls to determine emergencies from the hundreds of calls received each week.
'Since we took over the Emergency Medical Service in 1972 we've had a lot of system abuse,' he said. 'We have 18 mobile intensive care units to service 400 square miles and a million people. That's very few.'
Studies have revealed that more than half of the people requesting ambulance service do not require emergency transportation, he said.