D.C. Paramedic Disciplined Over Letter to City Council

WASHINGTON, DC (MyFoxDC) – A DC paramedic who publicly criticized staff shortages this week says the fire department has now placed him on administrative leave.

The paramedic, Jon Botwin, wrote a letter to city council last week following the death of a 5-month-old baby girl.

In his email, a copy of which was obtained by Fox 5 News, the nine-year veteran firefighter told councilmembers “our city is in danger” because of what Botwin calls “ridiculous mis-management” of the city’s paramedic corps.

“All I can say right now is I’ve had to report to the fire chief’s office and I’ve been directed that I’m placed on administrative leave,” Botwin told us outside the Reeves Center late Thursday afternoon. “That’s all I can say at this point.”

Botwin says he was supposed to be driving Engine 26, housed on Rhode Island Ave NE until 7am Friday. He was also serving as its lone paramedic.

Botwin’s letter was written after the death of Zariah Bolden. Botwin was the first paramedic to arrive at her North Capitol Street home last Thursday afternoon; 8 minutes after dispatchers got the call.

“To tell you the truth,” says Zariah’s father, Philip Bolden, “I just wanted them to hurry.”

The two closest engine companies that day were not staffed with paramedics.

“It does raise an issue was to whether or not this is some kind of retaliation,” says Fox 5 News reporter Paul Wagner. He’s been reporting on the troubles within DC Fire and EMS for months now.

“This is something that is talked about constantly within the fire department,” Wagner says. “About the fact that there are so few paramedics in the city. And the lack of paramedics has everybody concerned that the EMS care is not up to the high quality that it should be in the city. And that’s the real concern here.”

All Botwin did was wonder aloud whether baby Zariah’s life could have been saved had the city staffed a paramedic closer to her home.

In a statement to Fox 5 News, DC Fire and EMS officials tell us they “have been contacted by the District’s privacy officer who has some very serious concerns about the letter.”

The email goes on to say “the department’s medical director has placed Firefighter Botwin on non-patient contact. He is not on administrative leave.”

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