Editor’s note: Reporter Matt Mencarini’s column on issues and events affecting Sterling and Rock Falls, and the people who live there, debuts today.
STERLING – Not all emergency vehicles with sirens and lights go to a scene for the same purpose.
Some are there to enforce the law. Some are there to put out a fire. And some are there to help people who have been hurt.
Jonathan Williams, 18, died Aug. 11 at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford after he was injured in a fight an at underage drinking party the morning of Aug. 10.
The call for an ambulance didn’t come until nearly 5 hours after Williams was hurt.
Playing the “what if?” game in regard to Williams’ death isn’t fair to anyone involved. But Lynda Wade, Williams’ mother, took to Facebook while her son was still in the hospital and encouraged parents and teens to have a plan, and to call 911.
She said whatever consequences may arise would be far less than what could happen if they don’t call.
And chances are medical personnel responding won’t alert the police about underage drinking or even drug use, said Dr. Paul Steinke, president and CEO at CGH Medical Center.
“We’re not people’s parents,” Steinke said. “No, we’re not the police. We’re there to help them.”
He didn’t mean that police aren’t there to help, either, but that teens shouldn’t be concerned about getting an illegal consumption ticket from a paramedic. That’s not their job, he said.
“Generally speaking, [paramedics] show up in a nonjudgmental way and do what it takes to help the patients,” Steinke said.
There even has been a situation at CGH, he added, when a patient was admitted to the emergency room with methamphetamine in his possession.
It was collected with the rest of his belongings and given back when he was discharged. The medical center doesn’t advocate drug use, Steinke said, but it also doesn’t act as law enforcement.
Steinke said medical personnel expressed the dangers of meth use with the patient and encouraged him to seek help. But as long as a patient isn’t a threat to others, with a knife or firearm, for example, he said, the hospital doesn’t necessarily concern itself with any illegal activity.
People need to know a hospital is a safe haven, Steinke said.
But there are times when parademics or medical personnel will involve the police.
“If you come into a situation where there’s a house full of underage drinking, that’s different than if a 5-year-old is being abused by their father,” Steinke said.