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EMS Report Outrages Families

WASHINGTON D.C. -- A man whose brother died of a heart attack hours after being told by a D.C. paramedic that he suffered from acid reflux says his family is outraged to learn that fire officials had prior warning that the paramedic needed retraining.

It's just a slap in the face to my family, said Anthony Givens, 36, the brother of Edward L. Givens of Northeast, who died at his home in December after the call to D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services.

The Washington Times reported Friday that scores of the District's paramedics either failed to meet the minimum national standard on written exams that tested their medical knowledge or they mishandled basic lifesaving procedures during videotaped assessments, according to videos, documents and interviews with industry professionals.

The materials also were requested on numerous occasions by the family of slain journalist David E. Rosenbaum. The family repeatedly asked about the testing as part of a settlement in 2008 of a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the city.

Toby Halliday, Mr. Rosenbaum's son-in-law, said he began late last year asking about the tests conducted at the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute (MFRI), and the fire department refused to disclose the results, even though the testing was initiated more than a year ago.

The department had initial results on these evaluations late last summer. Despite repeated requests, the department has not released the results to the public, but has characterized the performance of their paramedics on these tests in very positive terms, Mr. Halliday said.

To the extent that the department feels that the MFRI evaluations demonstrate gaps in performance that require remedial training, we support that effort and are eager to hear what additional training is being provided and when that effort began. We recently met with the mayor to discuss our concerns about these tests and other issues in the EMS program. We are awaiting his response to those concerns, he said.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty told The Washington Times on Friday that he was unaware of the newspaper report and declined to comment on it until he had a chance to review the matter.

Asked about a press release with his name on it that was issued by the fire department on Wednesday addressing questions raised by The Times, Mr. Fenty again said he was unaware of the report and would not comment on it before reviewing the matter.

I think I owe that to the people who elected me, he said.

Asked whether he would revisit his decision to leave EMS under the administration of the fire department - after pledging in 2006 as a candidate for mayor to separate the agencies - Mr. Fenty said: No.

Mr. Givens said he was disappointed with Mr. Fenty's decision.

It's just outright disrespectful for the mayor to say one thing, and then we elect him and he does another, Mr. Givens said.

Mr. Givens, whose family has sued the District over the handling of his brother's case, said he was angry that fire officials defended the performances on the videos and the written test scores, the vast majority of which were below 60 percent.

It's almost shameful, he said. It's like a low blow to my family to say some of the things they're saying.

One professional who viewed the videotapes for The Times expressed concerns specifically about the assessment of the firefighter-paramedic who treated Mr. Givens.

Based upon viewing the videotape, I would have serious concerns about him performing any medical practice, said Graydon Lord, a licensed paramedic and former fire and EMS chief in Cherokee County, Ga.

I would recommend that the medical director make his determination as to whether this provider can safely practice medicine in the pre-hospital-care environment, Mr. Lord said.

Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin told WRC-TV Channel 4 on Friday that he had not seen any of the tapes until they surfaced in news reports.

Of course it is cause for concern, but the entire idea is that we contracted with the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute, perhaps the best medical agency in the country, to evaluate our performance in a way that we can change our protocols and train our people.

Mr. Givens said fire officials have not acknowledged any wrongdoing in his brother's case.

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