Pa. Resident Claims Mistreatment by Responders


 
 

Margaret Smykla | | Friday, January 25, 2008


VERSAILLES, Pa. -- The Versailles Volunteer Fire Company's ambulance service is under investigation following a complaint filed by borough resident Randy Kovach who said he was mistreated by rescue workers.

The investigation by the Emergency Medical Service Institute, a regional EMS council serving Pittsburgh and the surrounding counties, was authorized by the state Department of Health's Bureau of Emergency Medical Services Institute.

That information was relayed to Mr. Kovach in a Jan. 9 letter from Timothy L. Roth, EMS Program Specialist in the Bureau of Emergency Medical Services.

Mr. Kovach, 24, a law student, moved to the borough in August.

He said he moved here following back surgery to live with his aunt, Kelly Kelley, 46, and to be near his doctors at UPMC Presbyterian.

He alleged that almost immediately he was subjected to verbal abuse from a fire company member about his sexual orientation. Mr. Kovach said that both he and his aunt are gay.

On Dec. 5, Mr. Kovach fell in the snow and ice on the sidewalk at the corner of Walnut and High streets in Versailles. He said he feared that he had reinjured his back, and that he was screaming in pain and crying.

When the fire company's ambulance arrived, Mr. Kovach and his aunt insisted that they did not want the service treating him. Instead, they wanted the McKeesport Area Rescue Service, which also responds to Versailles calls.

Mr Kovach said that he and his aunt made the request based on his prior harassment by a fire company member, and also because Mr. Kovach is a member of the American Legion Post 939 which, he said, is involved in a feud with the fire company.

"We also felt [McKeesport service] would provide better service as it is a paid service and an advanced-life support service,'' Mr. Kovach said.

He also said the steel rod in his back requires expert handling and he thought the McKeesport service was better trained to deal with it.

Mr. Kovach said that the fire company's service ignored his pleas and those of his aunt and placed him in the ambulance, where they strapped him down and called him "a sissy'' and made other derogatory comments.

"I was screaming the whole time, 'get off me, don't touch me,' which is why they were calling me names. At the hospital, they called security because I was still screaming to get off of me,'' Mr. Kovach said.

He was treated and released from UPMC McKeesport, where no permanent injury to his back was detected.

Besides the state Department of Health, Mr. Kovach said he has contacted the FBI and the state attorney general's office to see about charges of false imprisonment and unlawful restraint.

He also contacted the American Civil Liberties Union about possible civil rights violations.

At the borough council meeting earlier this month, Mr. Kovach distributed to council members copies of his correspondence with various government agencies.

Mr. Kovach asked council to suspend the ambulance service's charter until the investigation is completed, which council refused to do.

"I think it's a legal issue, and I can't comment,'' said council President Gene Ferry of the entire matter, which was referred to borough solicitor George Gobel.

Neither Mr. Gobel nor police Chief William Kruczek could be reached for comment.

Margaret Smykla is a freelance writer.


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