DC Fire & EMS Department Chief Dennis Rubin testified Friday before the DC City Council’s Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary. This was a scheduled oversight hearing. It included discussion of the recent death of two-year-old Stephanie Stephens. A criminal investigation by the Metropolitan Police Department Homicide Branch is determining if there was criminal neglect by a senior paramedic when the decision was made not to take the little girl to the hospital after her mother’s initial call to 911 in the middle of a blizzard on February 10.
Kenneth Lyons, president of AFGE Local 3721 representing civilian EMS workers, gave indication to reporters that the transport decision was a mutual one between Stephens’ mother and the paramedic. Numerous sources have confirmed the medic failed to get a signed release or fill out an electronic patient care report after the response.
In his opening remarks at the hearing Chief Rubin said, “The department is revising our non-transport policy to include the addition of a mandatory supervisory verification that assures all patient protocols were followed prior to the unit leaving the scene.”
Before I begin, I must offer my most sincere and heartfelt apology to the parents and family of Stephanie Stephens for her death. I am the father of three children and grandfather of one and I cannot begin to imagine how I would feel if placed in the same position. I can only say that I was profoundly shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the circumstances of this case and since learning of them I have devoted almost all of my time to investigating and reviewing this Department’s actions. My heart goes out to the parents and family of this little child and if there was anything I could do to change what occurred, I would act immediately to make it happen. That said, and as the Fire and EMS Chief for the District of Columbia, I must accept responsibility for the actions of our employees. Public responsibility for failure in this case will be mine and mine alone and I do not intend to share this responsibility with others. Good leadership begins and ends at the top and I can only hope that my testimony today will reassure this community that the emergency medical services system in the District of Columbia is not broken and does not suffer from a lack of sound judgment and responsible actions by the vast majority of our employees.
Here’s more on the hearing from 9NEWS NOW’s Audrey Barnes:
A day after DC police launched a criminal investigation into a decision by a senior paramedic not to transport a child who later died, Fire Chief Dennis Rubin was summoned to a council hearing to explain some recent department missteps.
Like the case of Stephanie Thomas, who testified that she called paramedics to her home last spring when her nine-year-old asthmatic son was having chest pains and trouble breathing.
“I requested transport to Children’s Hospital,” Thomas says. “The paramedic told me that wasn’t necessary, to put him in the shower with some steam, and if I needed them later, call back.”
Within an hour, she says her son’s condition worsened, so she drove him to the hospital herself. The first question she was asked was, “Why did I take so long to bring him in?”
Thomas’ son survived. The case is eerily similar to that of Stephanie Stephens, who died the day after one crew refused to take her to the hospital to treat her breathing difficulty, and suggested steam as a treatment.
“The buck stops with Chief Rubin,” the head of Local 3721 Kenneth Lyons says. “He knew about these other cases and tried to cover them up, blaming it on semantics, while families grieve.”
Rubin says he accepts the blame and will investigate the Thomas case. He says he just learned about it.
“We will get to the bottom of this,” Rubin says. “We’ll get it resolved.”
The council’s oversight committee expects to release its findings soon.
Also on STATter911 …
- Video: Citizen who lost son praises EMS response but blasts DC firefighters. Tells hearing they are ‘terrorists’ trying to make Chief Ellerbe look bad. – April 1, 2013
- DC Chief Kenneth Ellerbe on why safer cotton shirts for firefighters are sitting in warehouse: ‘Sometimes there’s trickery in terms of one administration to another’. – March 9, 2012
- Demoted Macon-Bibb County, GA Captain Stephanie Burke says she was scared by gun prank. Chief Marvin Riggins paints a different picture as he narrates longer version of video at hearing. – January 26, 2012
- Chief Kenneth Ellerbe responds: Live interview this morning discussing sexual harassment claims when chief was in Florida. – March 8, 2012
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