Treatment Decision in Stabbing Questioned

Ambulance Carrying Victim Diverted Due to Full Trauma Center At Nearby Hospital

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The decision about where to treat a UC Berkeley student who was suffering from a stab wound has raised concerns from some members of the local community.

But hospital officials say the decision to divert the student from Highland General Hospital in Oakland to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley was based on the ability to quickly access appropriate medical care.

Senior nuclear engineering major Chris Wootton, 21, was fatally stabbed in the parking lot of the sorority Chi Omega early Saturday morning.

Wootton, a member of Sigma Pi fraternity, was transported to Eden Medical Center but died en route. He had suffered a stab wound to the upper chest.

Highland General Hospital is approximately 11 minutes closer to the scene of the stabbing than Eden Medical Center, but Rick Oliver, paramedic field supervisor with the ambulance service company American Medical Response, said Wootton was diverted from Highland General Hospital because its trauma center was full.

"They had a trauma and critical patient overload and had been inundated with other traumas and both trauma teams were in surgery," he said.

Oliver also said Wootton could not be taken to Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley because it does not have a trauma center and is therefore not equipped to handle injuries of Wootton's severity.

While Oliver could not comment on the exact details of Wootton's injuries, he said paramedics are usually able to provide effective care.

"Paramedics have years of training," he said. "We basically bring the emergency room to the patients in the back of the ambulance, but there are some things that we cannot perform that only the doctors can perform."

Jonnie Banks, a spokesperson for Eden Medical Center, said timing is critical for trauma patients.

"If it's a trauma patient, trauma patients don't sit and wait," she said. "Common sense would tell you that you want to get them (to the hospital) in a hour."

Officials differ on the frequency of these diversions. Banks said they are "not uncommon," although Oliver said they occur "very rarely."

Several of Wootton's friends said they trusted medical authorities to make the right choice about Wootton's care.

"I have to trust that they made the right decision about where to take him," said Sigma Pi member Kabir Seth.


Contact Amy Brooks at [email protected]

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