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Buckeye Valley Fire District changing policy after third ambulance stolen by hospital patient

<i>Buckeye Police/KTVK</i><br/>Alejandra Rocha is facing charges after police said she stole an ambulance from outside a Valley hospital
Lawrence, Nakia
Buckeye Police/KTVK
Alejandra Rocha is facing charges after police said she stole an ambulance from outside a Valley hospital

By Briana Whitney

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    BUCKEYE, Arizona (KTVK) — A Phoenix woman is facing charges after police said she stole an ambulance from outside a Valley hospital, but it’s now the third time a Buckeye Valley Fire District ambulance has been stolen by patients outside a hospital over the past few years.

So how does this keep happening, and will there be a change in protocol? This all has to do with the fact this fire district keeps its ambulances running when they’re at the hospital. They have a reason to do so, but after patients keep trying to drive ambulances home, the district said they now have to create a new policy.

Hospital patients have stolen not one, not two, but three ambulances. “I think it’s wild. I personally think it’s wild,” said Sarah Mendoza, public information officer for Buckeye Valley Fire District. It’s something they’ve now dealt with three times, forcing the fire district to reevaluate how they operate at West Valley hospitals. “We have to change our policies and the way we do things,” said Mendoza.

This past weekend police said Alejandra Rocha was trying to check herself into Banner Estrella hospital but had to wait to get in. Police said that’s when she decided to go out to the ambulance bay and get into a running ambulance parked there. She reportedly drove the ambulance for a while until she was stopped by officers at 10th Place and Indian School Road, thankfully due to technology inside the ambulances. “All of our rescues or ambulances have a tracking system,” said Mendoza.

But Rocha’s incident isn’t unlike others. In October 2014, police said Michael Lopez escaped a West Valley hospital and stole a Buckeye Valley ambulance while an EMT was cleaning it. “The EMT was actually in the back of the ride when that happened,” said Mendoza. “He was able to actually…he jumped out of the ride.”

Then in March of last year, 46-year-old Christopher Sauls stole the fire district’s ambulance at Abrazo Health in Goodyear and crashed it. Once police caught up to him, he told investigators he wanted to go home.

This is a recurring issue, but Mendoza said they’ve kept their ambulances running for a reason. “The reason we keep it running is for urgency. We want to get the patients in the E.R. as fast as we can, especially the critical patients, so we’re not really worried about security,” Mendoza said.

She also said they have a lot of equipment running in the back, so they keep the ambulance on to keep that running and keep the AC on for patients in the summer and the heater on in the winter. She said now they’re going to change all of that. “We’re going to start turning off these rescues and locking these rescues. That’s what we’re going to have to do after the third time,” Medoza said.

Mendoza said they have not had an actual policy until now, so this will be all new to them. She said they’ll also be looking at having a two-man crew, so one person is monitoring the ambulance at all times.

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