Being a fire or EMS chief (or a police chief) can be difficult. There is pressure from the rank and file, middle management, management above you, and of course the public and media. It’s easy to do or say something that will come back to bite you in the nether regions. In fact, it’s easier to do that than not do that.
It doesn’t help when you do or say something that is really dumb and it makes its way into the public domain.
Charleston County’s chief paramedic was fired Monday in the wake of a self-published book that described some EMS employees as “life-sucking, energy-draining bags of annoying hell.”
Don Lundy has served as the county’s EMS director since 2000 but had been on paid administrative leave for the past two weeks. On July 4, he self-published “Paramedic of the Heart: True Stories of Lives Changed” on Amazon.com, according to a webpage for the book.
“Shocked and saddened.” he may be, but this shouldn’t be a surprise. This story has been brewing for a few weeks, but the conclusion was foregone. I don’t know Don Lundy, but if he was chief for 15 years, he probably wasn’t horrible at the job.
Here is the quote from his book that seems to have got him in trouble,
“They are life-sucking, energy-draining bags of annoying hell,” the author wrote. “And, for their own misgivings, everyone around them must suffer.”
Lundy states that he was not talking about his current agency, but that seems not to matter to anyone. His mistake was publishing his book while he was still actively working. These sort of books are much better published after one has retired. Which was Lundy’s real mistake. The county isn’t saying exactly why Lundy was let go, but the following quote might give us a clue.
Lundy has fought increased criticism from his employees since September, when the county converted the department’s remaining 24-hour shifts to 12 hours. Employees accustomed to the trade-offs for working longer days — more overtime pay and consecutive days off — grew unhappy, and they raised concerns that the change was affecting ambulance response times. One sent an anonymous email about it to local officials.
At least four of 170 employees quit because of the switch. The county hired more paramedics to make up for the change.
People in fire and EMS love 24 hour shifts. Depending on how they are set up, folks have a lot of time off for other activities. The problem comes with busy systems, because after 24 hours without sleep the quality of health care can fall off dramatically. Austin EMS is grappled with this issue some years ago. As a matter of fact, they are still grappling with the issue. Still, there are employees who don’t want to change and some of that might have played into this decision. It’s convenient for upper management to make a scapegoat of a chief who they might not like already. Still, it’s just plain dumb to hand them an excuse for letting you go.
I’m sure there is more to this story than we’ve heard as of yet.
Then there is this,
Most fire trucks and ambulances run by the Compton Fire Department have been stripped of defibrillator machines, a crucial lifesaving device that rescuers use to deliver a shock and try to restart the heart of cardiac arrest victims.
County regulators ordered the department to remove the devices last week after fire officials were unable to produce documentation showing Compton firefighters had been properly trained to use the equipment.
The action comes after The Times disclosed in March that nearly one in four city firefighters lacked a permit to perform emergency medical care, a key credential required by other local fire agencies.
This is just plain dumb. Operating an Automatic External Defibrillator is not exactly hard. I’ve taught people with a tenuous, at best, grasp of English how to use one. I’m not sure what type of “permit” is needed for fire fighters to use them, but since we can teach kids in high schools how to use them, it can’t be tremendously difficult.
So here is the first dumb thing that the fire chief said,
Compton Fire Chief Jon Thompson said that on most 911 calls, paramedics, who continue to carry defibrillators, are dispatched with lower-skilled firefighters.
“It doesn’t put us in any danger,” Thompson said. He noted that while Compton rescue units have long had defibrillators, state law does not require firefighters to carry them. “It’s not a mandatory program. It’s something that we would like to have.”
Apparently this did put him in danger. Danger of losing his job at any rate,
Compton Fire Chief Jon Thompson was placed on leave Tuesday as the city launched an investigation after a series of Times reports on breakdowns in the fire agency’s management of emergency medical care.
City Manager Johnny Ford said officials would examine how most city firetrucks and ambulances were stripped of defibrillators, a crucial lifesaving device that rescuers use to deliver a shock to try to restart the heart of cardiac arrest victims.
Apparently this is just part of the problem. It seems that no one at the Compton Fire Department is too conscientious when it comes to EMS.
COMPTON, Calif. — The Compton Fire Department has failed to properly document emergency medical care and monitor the training and performance of the city rescuers who respond to 911 calls for help, according to a confidential audit obtained by The Times.
The six-page audit, delivered to the department in February by county regulators, follows a series of Times reports on breakdowns at the fire agency that prompted city leaders to launch an investigation and place the department’s chief on leave.
The audit criticized Compton paramedics for failing to complete nearly a dozen different types of medical records after delivering emergency care and directs top department officials to launch a broad retraining effort.
The city has now rectified at least the AED issues, but Chief Thompson remains on administrative leave as of now.
I have little doubt that he won’t be returning any time soon, if at ever.
I think chiefs should do two things to keep their jobs. Do their jobs and refrain from making embarrassing comments that make their way into the public domain.