Indy doctor calls potholes a ‘public health issue’ because of dangerous ambulance rides

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – More and more potholes are popping up across Indiana and emergency room doctors tell CBS4 the poor road conditions could be deadly.

"It’s the worst it’s ever been,” said Dr. Louis Profeta, who works in St. Vincent’s emergency room. "It’s the biggest public health issue right now in this city outside of opiates.”

Profeta says potholes make an already difficult job even harder, and an already painful experience unbearable.

“You have elderly people with broken bones that are hitting these potholes," Dr. Profeta said. "Can you imagine the type of pain they’re going through?”

Profeta says that’s not the worst part. While driving down 79th Street in a critical care ambulance for infants, CBS4 saw firsthand how bumpy the ride can be.

“When things are bumping down the road, that makes things particularly dangerous," said St. Vincent EMS Medical Director Stephanie Gardner. "The babies get very uncomfortable as their lines come out, their airways come out."

Dr. Profeta says last year he was afraid to transport a baby in critical condition, worried potholes would dislodge an IV or a breathing tube.

"If we lose these airways, if we lose these IVs en route because of potholes, these children can die,” Dr. Profeta said. "Can you imagine saving a kids life at one hospital or one location, only to have them die because of a pothole on a city street?! It’s preposterous. It’s a disgrace right now.”

St. Vincent isn’t the only hospital dealing with potholes. IU Health has already repaired an ambulance this week after potholes knocked loose bolts on the truck’s frame.

“Ambulances are highly specialized vehicles that aren't like the cars that you and I drive to work every day," said Matt Wright, a regional supervisor for IU Health Lifeline. "Repairing them can be much more difficult to get those fixed, and more timely.”

DPW has filled nearly 30,000 potholes so far this year. However, their queue of unfilled potholes continues to grow. Dr. Profeta says something more needs to be done before it’s too late.

“If we have to bring in vehicles, bring in resources from out of state... then we need to do that," Dr. Profeta said. "We need to mobilize everything. We need to fix this.”

DPW had 21 crews working on Wednesday. The department says they do take public safety routes into consideration when repairing potholes.

Senate Blvd, a heavily used road in front of IU Methodist will be one of the first roads to be strip patched.

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