(WMC) - A Mid-South community is experiencing an ambulance shortage after a fire shut down a hospital; forcing emergency responders to drive to Memphis for care.
The Crittenden Regional Hospital fire happened 11 days before a vote to raise the sales tax one cent to save the financially strapped medical center.
Now, people are getting a dose of what it would be like without the county's only hospital.
West Memphis resident and tax supporter Danny Jones cannot imagine life without Crittenden Regional. Jones, who suffered a stroke that left him wheel chair dependent, says he would not be here if not for the hospital.
"They saved me every time. I'm still alive," said Jones.
West Memphis Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Jones says paramedics must now take patients over the I-40 bridge to Memphis emergency rooms.
"A couple of extra minutes could mean death to somebody," said Chief Jones. "We've run out of ambulances in the county."
The fire chief says response times to Crittenden Regional were reasonable.
"We were there 15-30 minutes at the longest to unload patients. We go to Memphis, now we're looking at an hour sometimes two hours," added Chief Jones. "We even had an ambulance wait at the MED almost six hours."
Jones also noted that there have been times when fire trucks respond to emergencies and babysit the scene until ambulances can arrive.
"There are instances where there are wrecks on the bridge where there's traffic backed up and our next hospital is an hour away in Jonesboro."
The hospital was already in fear of shut down from financial woes at the time the fire happened in an empty patient room. No one was hurt.
Supporters have launched social media pages to save the hospital, which is closed for repairs until June 23.
Early voting for a tax hike to keep the hospital open begins on Tuesday, election day is June 24.
According to the head of the West Memphis Republican Party, even the most fiscally conservative support the increase in the name of safety.
Copyright 2014 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.
1720 Valley View Drive