Jo Ann Burbage, EMS dispatcher, surrenders license after botched 911 call
A Maryland 911 dispatcher who bungled an emergency call for a man who was dying from a heart attack in Ocean City in 2009 has voluntarily surrendered her license.
On Oct. 3, 2009, Jo Ann Burbage responded to a call from the sister-in-law of 52-year-old Richard Rehmann, who had collapsed while cleaning a boat. However, Cheryl Monno said that Burbage seemingly had no idea where she was calling from despite having given her a street address and a nearby major intersection.
"I felt like the dispatcher had no idea where I was," Monno told ABC7's Kris Van Cleave during an interview in 2010.
It took two minutes just to clarify the address and several more minutes before Burbage dispatched first responders just a mile and a half away from the Bayshore Court home Monno was calling from. It all happened even after Monno explicitly told the dispatcher she believed Rehmann, an Alexandria resident, was having a heart attack.
After more back and forth, during which Monno would ask for instructions and Burbage would repeatedly ask if the victim was OK, she finally began giving CPR instructions. Rehmann later died.
"I can't tell you how frustrating and at a complete loss I felt for the nine minutes it took the ambulance to actually get there," Monno said.
Nearly three years later, on April 10, the Maryland State Emergency Medical Services Board accepted the surrender of Burbage's license.
"Something went wrong, they are actually confirming it did and that's kind of hard to take," Jackie Rehmann, Richard's widow, said.
An internal investigation by Ocean City's EMS department in 2009 revealed that a supervisor had expressed concern over Burbage's inexperience with medical protocols and that she seemingly "froze" while trying to give Monno CPR instructions. In addition, three EMS experts who ABC 7 News asked to review the 911 tape all said there were serious problems with the way the call was handled.
"Any chance my brother-in-law had to survive that day were lost because that dispatcher didn't dispatch the call," Monno said.
There's no way to know if Rehmann could have been saved if the call were handled differently, but that doesn't help the wife he left behind.
"I just know I lost my husband and my best friend," Jackie said.