To the Editors of The Crimson:
I wish to express my distress at the way I have recently seen the University Health Services operate in cases of medical emergency. I am more than disconcerted at the handling of a call which I made this morning requesting help for Alfred Pickering '74, a student in Economics 1350.
At approximately 9:55, I called the Health Services, asking for immediate dispatch of a physician and ambulance to Sever 17 in the Yard to treat what we assumed to be a severe epileptic fit. Simultaneously, another student in the class ran to the Health Services to personally request the same, and was told that a doctor was on his way. Upon returning to Sever Hall, the student found that no doctor had yet arrived. Ten minutes later, the University Police arrived and attempted to revive Mr. Pickering. They made several attempts via radio to locate the physician who had supposedly been dispatched and speed his arrival to Sever. The policemen were told that the doctor was in the building (Sever Hall) but several student searching in and around the building could not find him. The doctor arrived at 10:20 in the University Police car and pronounced Mr. Pickering dead.
Concerned with the procedure for handling emergencies, I spoke to the receptionist at the emergence desk, Mrs. Homans. She stated that the procedure which she followed was to immediately call the Harvard Police: "We get a lot of calls like this, believe it or not. We generally send the police over first and then they will come to bring the doctor over. In fact, the doctor (W. S. Kadan) was waiting here for the police."
Later this afternoon, I spoke to Dr. Shloem Postel, Associate Director of the University Health Services. Dr. Postel was unsure of what procedure was followed this morning. He indicated that "normal" procedure was immediately to send a doctor to the emergency. He noted, however, that the Health Services does not own an ambulance. (I was later informed that it is customary to use one of the Harvard Police station wagons as an on-campus ambulance.)
It seems evident that whatever the procedures undertaken in this morning's emergency, they are inadequate. Whether or not Mr. Pickering's life could have been saved by prompt arrival of capable medical help to require twenty-five minutes to get a doctor from Holyoke Center to Sever Hall is indefensible. As the Health Services prides itself on the quality and comprehensiveness of its services it is most disturbing that the UHS has not been able to fulfill its most crucial function the effective and efficient handling of emergency medical situations on campus. Paul A. Parisi '75