The Rhode Island Department of Health has suspended the EMT licenses of two Warwick firefighters after a woman they declined to take to the hospital died a few hours later.
Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, who signed the orders, reviewed “the facts and conclusions in this case and finds that public health, safety, or welfare imperatively requires emergency action,” the orders say.
However, Elizabeth Wiens, an attorney representing Colombo and Monteiro, said, “There are a lot of things in the complaint that are just false.”
The Health Department took the emergency action based on a complaint, without interviewing Colombo and Monteiro, according to Wiens. Wiens says she does not know who filed the complaint and is trying to get that information from the Health Department. Colombo and Monteiro have requested a hearing.
The suspensions stem from the EMTs’ response to a call on Feb. 10 for a 44-year-old woman who had suffered a seizure followed by breathing difficulty, according to the orders.
When the EMTs arrived at 11:49 a.m., the woman was “partially asleep.” The EMTs talked with a nurse and were urged by residents to take her to a hospital, the orders say, but they ultimately decided against it, saying she was not in acute distress and should follow up with her primary care doctor.
After the EMTs left, a friend of the woman arrived at about 12:30 p.m. and took her to Kent Hospital, where doctors diagnosed tachycardia, the orders say.
Tachycardia is a heart rate over 100 beats per minute due to conditions not related to normal physiological stress, according to information on the Mayo Clinic’s website. Left untreated, tachycardia can lead to heart failure, stroke, sudden cardiac arrest or death, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The woman died at 2:20 p.m. despite life-saving attempts by hospital staff.
The Health Department orders claim that the EMTs neglected to check the patient’s vital signs, such as blood pressure, respiratory rate and oxygen saturation.
The orders say the EMTs violated EMS protocol that says, “Patients in respiratory distress or cardiac arrest should be transported to the nearest hospital unless otherwise directed by medical control. Respondent neither transported Patient 1 to a hospital, nor did he seek (or receive) any direction from medical control.”
The EMTs “consulted with no other health care provider before” deciding against taking her to a hospital, the orders say.
Refusal of transportation to a hospital must be “solely initiated by a patient” and “not suggested or prompted by EMT providers,” the orders say.
The orders also claim that the EMTs’ patient care report “lacked appropriate detail” and “contained erroneous information.”
The incident happened at a group home, according to Wiens. She said it’s her understanding that the patient was non-verbal. Wiens said the EMTs decided against taking the patient to a hospital after talking to a staff nurse, who, Wiens said, agreed with their decision.
Before leaving, one of the EMTs said, “If anything changes, call us back,. We’ll be here in a minute,” according to Wiens.
Wiens claims the Health Department acted hastily and suspended the licenses without an investigation. She’s seeking more information. A preliminary hearing is planned Monday to schedule matters such as the Health Department’s supplying her clients with further information.
Wiens says it’s her understanding that Colombo and Monteiro are still working but not going on medical calls.
Monteiro has had his EMT license since 2011 and was promoted to rescue lieutenant in 2018, according to a previous Journal story. Colombo has had his EMT license since 2014.
A call to the Warwick fire chief was not immediately returned.
On Twitter: @jgregoryperry
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: State suspends licenses of 2 Warwick EMTs after patient dies
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