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Family questions why ambulance across county line refused help during emergency

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SEQUATCHIE COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -

It took almost half an hour for an ambulance to reach a woman suffering a seizure, and now her family wants to know why. They live less than five miles from an ambulance dispatch center.

The situation is shedding light on an underserved community near Walden's Ridge that lies near the border of Hamilton and Sequatchie counties.

The 69-year-old woman is still recovering in the hospital after being on a ventilator in ICU for several days. On Friday, minutes made a difference during her medical emergency.

She was having a severe seizure at her home, located about a mile over the Sequatchie County line. It took 25 minutes for Puckett EMS to respond from the county's only EMS station 17 miles away.

"If someone had intervened faster, she would have less devastating effects," said Alisha Weathers, the niece of the patient.

Weathers questions why another agency didn't help out. Hamilton County's Walden's Ridge Emergency Services is just five miles from the home.

Puckett EMS records show that they requested support from Hamilton County while en route, but help was denied.

"You have the means on the ambulance to help someone that needs you," Weathers said. "It just doesn't make sense why you would refuse, and send another ambulance service that's 45 minutes to an hour away."

Hamilton County EMS Director Ken Wilkerson says emergency services are paid for by county taxpayers, and that dictates where they respond.

"How do we justify an ambulance not being available for a citizen because it's being used for a primary responder into another county?" Wilkerson stated.

"I would just like for this to change. This needs to change," Weathers said.

Mutual aid requires both government agencies to pass an agreement first. Right now, no such agreement exists between Hamilton and Sequatchie counties.

The weathers family says if they find themselves in need of an ambulance going forward, they'll drive to the county line to get help faster.

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