(WMC) - After a fire shut down Crittenden Regional Hospital, a Mid-South community experienced an ambulance shortage on Monday. The fire forced emergency responders to drive over to Memphis for care.
The fire happened 11 days before a vote to raise the sales tax one penny to save the financially strapped hospital.
People are getting a dose of what it would be like without Crittenden Regional.
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 Jones.
He says response times to Crittenden Regional were reasonable.
"We've run out of ambulances in the county," added Jones.
Jones says there have been times when fire trucks respond to emergencies and babysit the scene until ambulances can arrive.
"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. We even had an ambulance wait at The MED [Regional Medical Center] almost six hours," added Jones.
The hospital was already in fear of shut down from financial woes at the time the fire happened in an empty patient room.
"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," said Jones.
No one was hurt in fire. People have launched social media pages to save the hospital.
One supporter of the tax hike says a stroke will put him in a wheel hair. He fears he wouldn't be alive if the hospital wasn't in Crittenden County.
On Tuesday, early voting begins to raise taxes to keep the hospital open. Election Day is June 24.
The West Memphis' Republican Party says even the most fiscally conservative support the tax hike in the name of safety.
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