A D.C. paramedic has been placed on leave and an investigation is under way after an 87-year-old woman died at a local hospital.
The incident occurred Nov. 17 when D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services responded to a call for a woman experiencing abdominal pains.
A fire engine and ambulance from Engine Company 11 — located at 14th Street and Park Road NW — responded to the call. According to sources familiar with the investigation, the paramedic who arrived on the fire engine determined the woman's condition was not serious and declined to accompany her to the hospital, despite the request of ambulance personnel that the paramedic stay with the patient.
Fire and EMS Chief Kenneth Ellerbe tells WTOP the medic who declined to stay with the victim has been placed on administrative leave with pay.
"I do take this matter very seriously," Ellerbe said. "The employee has been placed on administrative leave pending further action and there is a very serious ongoing investigation."
Howard University Hospital spokesman Ronald Harris says the woman did not die in the hospital waiting room as previously reported, but was seen by a doctor and a cardiologist just before her death. Harris says the hospital is looking into the matter.
The medic in question is a five-year veteran of D.C. Fire and EMS and is classified as an "intermediate paramedic," which is the a grade between emergency medical technician and paramedic.
Ellerbe says he personally briefed Mayor Vincent Gray about the incident.
"The mayor wants a quick resolution to this investigation," Ellerbe said.
The case is similar to the death of David Rosenbaum, who died in 2006 at Howard University Hospital after first responders failed to properly assess his condition and hospital staff failed to provide immediate treatment. An inspector general's report called the Rosenbaum incident "an unacceptable chain of failure."
Rosenbaum's family agreed to drop a $20 million lawsuit in exchange for improvements in the District's Fire and EMS protocol. Ellerbe says part of the investigation will be to determine if those protocols were followed in this latest incident.
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