Local ER doctor warns of health dangers caused by potholes

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- A local ER doc is sounding the alarm about the dangers of our city’s potholes.

He says the poor road conditions in Indianapolis are now a matter of life or death for some people.

“You can see how easy a big bump in the ambulance could pull that tube out or dislodge it,” said Dr. Louis Profeta, a St. Vincent ER doctor.

For a small child, with a tiny trach tube, a bump in the road could be deadly.

“We could take a child that is critically ill, being transported, and we could lose their airway and they could literally die with the problem with potholes,” said Profeta.

For the first time in his entire career, Profeta has to consider that worst-case scenario. Recently, he thought one child might not make it just a few miles on Indy’s battered streets to the 86th street St. Vincent pediatric ICU.

“I actually briefly contemplated flying this kid by helicopter, just a few miles, which is preposterous,” said Dr. Profeta. “You should be able to put a kid, any critically ill patient in an ambulance and be able to transport them by ground safely.”

In the 30 minutes we spent near the 86th Street hospital, FOX59 crews saw two people changing tires blown out by these craters.

“I knew it was my time,” said Kyle McKinney, one of the drivers who busted a tire. “I get a flat every year it seems like, from a pothole. So, I knew my day was coming.”

With potholes the worst he’s ever seen, McKinney felt lucky to avoid busting a tire this long.

As frustrating as replacing a tire is, Profeta says what we saw today is proof how bad and dangerous, the roads are.

“Money and your car is one thing, but losing a loved one, you’ll never recover from that,” said Profeta.

He's calling on city officials to find a way to fix this mess.

“This idea that you’re putting a Band-Aid on a bullet hole, well at least it’s a start,” said Profeta. “We need to be out there starting.”

FOX59 reached out to the mayor’s office.

In an email, a spokesperson says “the mayor has been engaged in conversations with his Central Indiana colleagues about ways that income taxes can be equitable distributed to address infrastructure benefiting the entire area.”

They went on to say that the city’s infrastructure is a critical public safety issue, but did not specifically respond to Profeta’s concerns about patient safety.

Councilor Leroy Robinson, whose district includes the hospital, responded to questions about the road conditions via email.

He stated, “The potholes on 86th Street in front of the hospital were filled last week, as I was personally out there with the DPW crews during the filling process.”

While the FOX59 crew observed some resurfacing to parts of 86th between Ditch and Township Line Road, the road was filled with potholes on 86th in front of the hospital.

Robinson also says the Harcourt Road side of the hospital is scheduled to be resurfaced during the 2018 infrastructure season and the west side of the hospital, on Knabb Road, was recently completed a few years ago.

“You know we had a telethon years ago where we saved the Pacers organization,” said Profeta. “Get on TV, OK? I’ll give you a hundred dollars right now Mr. Mayor. I’ll come out there with shovels. I’ll get ten of my friends. I’ll get a hundred of my friends. And we’ll come out and we’ll help.”

He said he’d give more if it meant patients would be safe.

A Department of Public Works official tells us they plan to start another pothole blitz next week. The last one lasted four days in late January.

In the meantime, medical crews continually have to find ways to navigate the potholes during life-or-death moments.