SunStar/Pinellas EMT's 'EMS Bingo' photo draws criticism

No one wants to see the inside of an ambulance, but in an emergency, it may be necessary. So, how would you feel if you saw something called “EMS Bingo” inside an ambulance?

That’s what many in the Bay Area are asking after an EMS worker in Pinellas County posted a photo of the game on social media Friday.

Some say it gives a black eye to hard-working first responders. Others say first responders need to have a sense of humor to cope with the life-and-death situations they encounter every day.

No one would call a life or death scene funny, but the EMS Bingo card seems to make light of obvious tragedy. The photo posted on the Facebook profile of a SunStar Paramedics EMT around noon Friday, was removed by 5 p.m.

Each square on the card represents a scenario EMS workers might encounter: gunshot wound, stabbing, seizures, diabetic patient, motor vehicle crash.

Descriptions of some scenarios raised eyebrows EMS workers and community members: code brown, overly dramatic family, psych patient, successful intubation. 

Former EMT Garrett Goodwin spoke with FOX 13 News about the perception versus the reality of emergency response work.

“At what point did anybody think this was remotely a good idea?” Goodwin asked of the post on Facebook.

He calls the bingo card “simply disgusting.”

“Imagine your loved one being hurt, watching your loved one have a heart attack. Imagine your drowned child trying to be revived. You get in with this ambulance, and you see this with boxes checked off,” Goodwin said.
The photo posted on social media was captioned, “Happy EMS week!”

Meanwhile, reactions on social media were mixed. Some defended the employee's post and the Bingo card, saying they should be allowed to have some fun. 

Others said the post was in poor taste, but did not entirely condemn the Bingo card. 

“This is the week we celebrate first responders. That’s why it stuck more to the heart,” Goodwin said.

SunStar ambulance services are contracted by Pinellas County. It operates about 80 ambulances there. It's unclear how many ambulances or EMTs had Bingo cards like this, or how many workers were a part of the game.

“I think the fact that someone printed this up, brought it to the workplace, handed it to people and said, ‘let’s play dead people Bingo.’ That, in itself, is fundamentally wrong,” Goodwin added.

SunStar told FOX 13 News the image was inappropriate and the printout was being removed from the vehicle. The company said it's making sure all ambulances will be free of this kind of material.

As for punishment, it's taking internal action, but wouldn't comment further.

”It’s a black eye on the millions of first responders that work hard and sacrifice their lives every day,” Goodwin said. 

Pinellas County responded as well,  saying it would let SunStar handle the matter internally. The person who posted it did not respond for comment.