Community reacts after whistleblower doctor is fired: ‘It’s embarrassing’

PETERSBURG, Va. -- Residents are reacting to news that the medical director for Petersburg Fire and EMS has been fired after speaking out about the safety of ambulances in the city.

Dr. Dusty Anderson called the changes to emergency medical care in Petersburg a "life or death situation" in a CBS 6 Problem Solvers Investigation that aired Tuesday.

Dr. Dusty Anderson and CBS 6 senior reporter Wayne Covil.

Dr. Dusty Anderson and CBS 6 senior reporter Wayne Covil.

Anderson said that city is divided into four districts with Southside Virginia Emergency Crew providing two advanced life support (ALS) ambulances to the three districts they serve.

However, the Petersburg Fire Department ambulance, which had previously offered ALS services, is now usually staffed as only Basic Life Support (BLS).

"For patients that have truly life-threatening emergencies, the BLS providers are very, very limited on what they can do," Anderson said.

When asked if people's lives were in danger because of the situation, Anderson said yes.

"Because of the fact we are no longer able to provide the type of EMS that the citizens deserve,” Anderson said.

Just hours before that report aired, Anderson was informed his contract was being terminated.

Resident Freddie Flowers said Wednesday that Anderson's termination is "embarrassing" for the city.

"I appreciate the fact that he was willing to tell the truth knowing what the circumstances may have been," longtime resident Elnora Smith said. "But it was sad he had to lose his job to do it."

Petersburg Fire, Rescue, and Emergency Services ambulance.

Petersburg Fire, Rescue, and Emergency Services ambulance.

Jerria Turner has several family members living in Petersburg, including in District 3, which is covered by the Petersburg ambulance.

"I think it's sad actually cause what if something was to happen to her or a cousin or just anybody that lives here," Turner commented. "And to know they wouldn't get proper care is... really sad."

Smith said she and others see it another way.

"Like my friend said, some of them you're just getting a ride," Smith said. "They can't treat you for different things."

Petersburg Fire and EMS officials pointed out that the ambulance is not always staffed as BLS if if ALS staffing is available.

Officials also said they are working to get more firefighters certified as paramedics. That is a process officials said will take a year and cost about $4,000 per firefighter.

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Watch for Problem Solvers Investigations Tuesdays and Wednesdays on CBS 6 News at 11 p.m.

Watch for Problem Solvers Investigations Tuesdays and Wednesdays on CBS 6 News at 11 p.m.