A paramedic with the D.C. Fire Department is on paid administrative leave after he allegedly refused to accompany a patient to the hospital. The patient later died. Officials are now trying to determine if the five year veteran ignored the standard protocols or simply made a bad decision in assessing the condition of the 87-year-old woman he was asked to help.
The Fire Chief declined to confirm the basic facts of the story so our reporting is coming through sources. What we know so far is this: on November 17th a paramedic assigned to Engine 11 allegedly examined an 87-year-old woman and determined her condition wasn't serious. But when asked to stay with the patient on the ride to the hospital with the EMT's assigned to the ambulance, the paramedic allegedly refused.
Since the fire department is not releasing the facts in the allegation, the patient’s name and address or even her medical condition, there's much we don't know.
However, this much is clear though. The 87-year-old woman was transported to Howard University Hospital and died after seeing a doctor. Would it have made a difference if the paramedic had ridden to the hospital with the patient in the ambulance? And if not, did he go against the protocols of the fire department’s medical staff?
"There are some concerns regarding this incident," said Fire and Ems Chief Kenneth Ellerbe in an interview Tuesday. "And that's why we have placed the employee on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation."
Chief Ellerbe says his Medical Director has completed one phase of the investigation and recommended officials probe the matter further.
FOX 5's Paul Wagner then asked the chief, "So can we then take from that your Medical Director believed something went wrong"? No, we can't take that from what I just said, what I'll say is an investigation ensued based on a recommendation from the Medical Director, now how that investigation turns out, I mean that's just going to be based on the facts."
The Fire and EMS Department has been operating under a new set of rules after the D.C. Inspector General's Office cited an "unacceptable chain of failure" by firefighters, paramedics, police officers and hospital personnel in the January 2006 treatment of David Rosenbaum, a New York Times journalist who was assaulted near his northwest home during a robbery and later died.
After the family filed a lawsuit the city agreed to put in place new protocols that would ensure the best care for people who call 911 for help. The Rosenbaum family agreed to drop its lawsuit after then Mayor Adrian Fenty promised to overhaul the medical protocols of the Fire and EMS Department.
Chief Ellerbe says this is the first time the protocols have come into question under his tenure as head of Fire and EMS.