News, Patient Care

Detroit Medic Won’t Be Suspended over ‘Blanket Scandal’

Issue 12 and Volume 37.

Worthy Honoree
Riley Spiering was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in 2004. He was given a 50% chance to live and underwent two bone marrow transplants donated by his brothers. His battle with AML lasted six years before his passing in 2010.

To honor his battle and keep his story alive, his family established RileyCare ambulance services. The San Diego (Calif.) based BLS service began in October, staffed by Riley’s four older brothers and run by his father, a physician.

“This has been a dream since Riley passed on to heaven,” says mom Laurie Spiering. “My boys have been passionate to start this company on behalf of their brother, and it’s been a great way for them to put their grief into action.”

The announcement from the Spiering family on the RileyCare website explains their rationale: “It is our goal to provide professional care that gives back to the community with prompt, compassionate service and quality patient care.”

“It is because of Riley that we wish to donate 10% of our net profit to further the research in pediatric cancer, as well as other foundations that support the needs of patients with life threatening diseases.”

We give the family a thumbs up for a compassionate and caring way to put grief into action and to help save more lives in the future. For more, visit

Unbalanced Choice
Lawrence, (Ind.), Mayor Dean Jessup made a decision to cut 24 EMT jobs to balance the city’s budget during a $2 million budget crisis. The previous administration had hired 18 new firefighters to staff a fifth fire station in 2010 without a permanent source of revenue to cover the obligation. Lawrence bridged part of the funding gap by spending the city’s reserves.

The city uses 88 firefighters to staff four engines, two rescue companies and one ladder company to handle 1,000 annual responses. The number of on-duty firefighters was increased in order to staff the four ambulances that handle 4,500 annual responses, according to news reports. Before October, the ambulances were staffed by single-role paramedics and EMTs.

We chide the administration for eliminating the EMS single-role staff to balance a budget destined to send them to a financial cliff.

‘Blanket’ Rule?
While he was responding to a structure fire in October, Detroit paramedic Jeff Gaglio provided an ambulance blanket to a lightly clothed, shivering, elderly fire victim. He didn’t replace the blanket or document his action. The next shift noted a blanket was missing.

An acting captain charged Gaglio with “loaning, selling or giving away department property.” Indeed, there are confounding factors. The blankets are provided to the fire department by Firefighter Support Services, a charitable organization for the very activity that Gaglio was reprimanded for performing.

Two weeks later, WJBK Fox 2 (Detroit) reporter Charles LeDuff conducted a telephone interview with EMS Chief Jerald James. The chief’s recorded remarks and the corresponding video went viral:

“We can’t have an employee who feels that they have a right to give away state property—be it donated, be it a blanket, be it a tire off a vehicle—without getting prior approval from somebody or notifying the proper authority. This is what he did.”

The story made international news and prompted a deluge of more than 300 donated blankets. The city’s response was to accuse the reporter of publishing a “blatantly false” article. Gaglio’s wife posted a copy of the charging document, validating the original news article.

The supervisory issue is that the paramedic failed to document his action or get a replacement blanket. The department’s response was akin to using a sledgehammer to swat a fly, creating negative collateral damage.

Thankfully, the story got such a great deal of media attention that Detroit Fire Commissioner decided not to suspend Gaglio for his actions.

We give thumbs up to the commissioner for this wise decision; to Gaglio for having a warm heart and warm blanket at the right time; and to LeDuff for raising awareness with his engaging news video that garnered national attention.