D.C. Paramedic Plans to Sue Fire Department

D.C. paramedic Gene Ryan told News4 he is planning to sue the D.C. Fire and EMS Department Monday due to mismanagement.

The announcement came on the same day the department released details of an internal investigation on the death of D.C. man who passed away just steps from a firehouse. 

Ryan told News4 he is suing under whistleblower protection because he says after bringing his concerns to Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe, he was retaliated against. He told News4 not every one of the department's units is fully equipped with proper medications.

"If you're a burn patient with agonizing pain I could fix that, I could take your pain away, but hopefully you live in the right neighborhood," Ryan said. "Hopefully it's the neighborhood that carries that medication, and that's hit or miss."

In response, Assistant Fire Chief David Miramontes told News4 control drugs are deployed to more than 90 percent of the department's units. 

"If you think about how much progress we've made in the last two years, I'm very pleased with the deployment we have now. Are we 100 percent yet? No, but we're working on it," Miramontes said. 

Ryan goes on to claim the department is not doing a good job of keeping track of these controlled drugs, including Morphine or Valium.

"Locks have been broken," Ryan said. "There are just some serious concerns."

Miramontes claims the department hasn't lost a dose of medication, ever.

Documents obtained by News4's Mark Segraves show gaps of controlled medications on tracking forms where the drugs should have been signed for. 

"So our process may not be perfect, but again, we have not lost a dose of medication in the two years and six months that I've been here," Miramontes said. 

Ryan also claims the department doesn't have a reliable system for red flagging emergency responses to the same locations. 

"It was a summer night and we had delivered a baby," Ryan explained. "Three months later, we go to that same address and it was for a baby who couldn't stop crying. My gut told me something was wrong. The child was beaten and had bleeding in his brain and a fractured skull.

"I came to find out that we had been [to that apartment] a number of times. You know, this family couldn't have done anything more to ask for help. They were calling 911 over and over again and we failed to pick up on it."

Ryan claims the fire department failed to pick up on these multiple calls for service to the same home for the same baby. He says no one connected the dots and alerted Child and Family Services.

"Somebody might have cared that there's something not right with this house, and this is not unique. This is not a unique approach to EMS. Major metropolitan cities do this all the time. They interface with social service agencies regularly so both sides can keep track of their patients. We just choose not to," he said.

Miramontes told News4 there are some checks and balances to the system.

"Our providers have the ability with a click of the mouse to refer a patient situation," Miramontes said. 

While individual employees can trigger a red flag, News4's Mark Segraves asked Miramontes how the department would be able to know about repeated calls for services if different firefighters responded each time, not knowing there had been previous calls.

"That's a complex question," Miramontes answered. "Our street program does monitor frequent calls for service. I'm not saying we're 100 percent."

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