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All Fame Is Fleeting


Va. fire department cited for transporting sick kid

FALMOUTH, Va. — The state has cited Stafford’s Fire and Rescue Department for four violations after a February incident in which volunteer firefighters transported an 18-month-old girl having a seizure to the hospital in a fire engine.

The two firefighters at the center of the controversy are still working at the Falmouth Fire Station. The infant is back at home, and the county says it is taking steps to address the violations.

Rather than being the heroes that the general public felt them to be, they were rather reckless with the safety of the patient and the public.

I’ll venture to guess that I’ve responded to as many or more pediatric seizures as anyone else in EMS.

There are two facts about pediatric seizures that people in EMS know (or should) and the general public should know.

  1. They look scary.
  2. They generally, absent underlying pathologies, are not harmful in the long term. If there is an underlying pathology, in 99% of the cases (in my experience) the parents are far more versed in their child’s needs than anyone, including physicians.

While the public should know that, it’s understandable that they don’t. It’s not understandable that anyone who purports to be an EMS provider doesn’t know that and act accordingly.

The county department initially prevented the two firefighters from answering emergency calls for about one week after the incident, but later reinstated them after faced with public outcry.

Nothing says “We don’t know what the hell we’re doing.” like backing down when your right because of “public outcry”. The county should have stuck to their original plan.

The state also took issue with the certification of the two firefighters, a mainly administrative matter that is more widespread in the department than the fire chief realized.

The two firefighters were both certified as emergency medical responders, but one hadn’t been certified in Virginia, though he had been nationally certified.

Also, neither firefighter had been officially “affiliated” with Stafford’s Fire and Rescue Department or received approval to practice by the department’s medical director.

This is what the public should be concerned with. The chief doesn’t know what is going on with his staff’s EMS certifications. Someone who isn’t properly certified in Virginia or authorized by the medical director is providing medical care.

He said the question of whether he felt the firefighters made the right decision was a little unfair, adding that hindsight is always 20/20 and that he wasn’t there at the scene.

He added that he expects those responding to emergency calls to make the right decision for the patient while following regulations. Otherwise, he said, a fire chief ends up sitting in a conference room with state officials.

Which I guess is where the chief spent some quality time explaining why up to twenty of his staff aren’t properly credentialed to provide care.

On his way to the McDonald’s, a medic unit called in over the radio to say they were the closest unit. But Kelley had heard the unit’s prior call was in North Stafford on White Pine Circle.

Kelley didn’t receive an answer from the medic unit after he asked for its location. After his second request, the medic unit only answered “southbound on Route 1.” Kelley figured it would be 10 or 15 minutes before a medic unit would arrive, so he made the decision to put the infant in the fire engine and drive across the Chatham Bridge to Mary Washington Hospital.

According to the county’s review, the medic unit was 4.6 miles away once Kelley’s engine started transporting the girl. Another ambulance was 1.7 miles away.

This makes Kelly seem more like a clown than a hero. No doubt there’s more to the story than we’re seeing, but it seems like there are communications, accountability, and quality of care issues at this department.

Like an iceberg, this call looks to be just the tip of the problem.

That’s something about which the public should be concerned instead of celebrating their “heroes”.

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After a long career as a field EMS provider, I'm now doing all that back office stuff I used to laugh at. Life is full of ironies, isn't it? I still live in the Northeast corner of the United States, although I hope to change that to another part of the country more in tune with my values and beliefs. I still write about EMS, but I'm adding more and more non EMS subject matter. Thanks for visiting.