Private medic suspended for 'protocol deviation' in East Chicago

2012-06-15T20:15:00Z Private medic suspended for 'protocol deviation' in East ChicagoBy Steve Zabroski Times Correspondent
June 15, 2012 8:15 pm  • 

EAST CHICAGO | An emergency medical technician accused of performing procedures for which he was not certified during an ambulance call last month has been suspended by his employer.

"It was determined that a deviation from protocol had occurred" May 28 during the Indiana Harbor incident, Highland-based Prompt Ambulance Services acknowledged in a statement released late Thursday.

"This event, while regretful, did not result in any negative outcome on behalf of the patient, and the medic privileges have been suspended indefinitely."

Prompt began supplying emergency medical services May 5 through a contract with East Chicago, after the city privatized its EMS department as a budget-reduction measure.

City firefighters filed a complaint earlier this month after they, police and a Prompt ambulance responded to a call regarding an unconscious man on the pavement shortly before 11 p.m. in the 3500 block of Guthrie Street. The 23-year-old patient had signs of a head injury, firefighters said in their complaint, and was conscious but disoriented when they arrived.

Prompt medics placed the man in their ambulance, firefighters said, and one of them, Joseph Merry Jr., inserted an intravenous line in the man's arm and injected him with naloxone, a medication used to counteract the effects of opiate intoxication.

Merry, 30, Prompt's director of operations and communication, is certified under state law only as a basic emergency medical technician; he is prohibited from initiating intravenous therapies.

To qualify as a full paramedic, basic-level EMTs need another 600 hours of classroom instruction, 300 hours of hospital training and 350 hours of ambulance experience, according to state statute.

A full paramedic was in the ambulance with Merry, Prompt officials said Thursday. The company's contract with East Chicago stipulates that all emergency ambulance calls be staffed by at least one full paramedic.

Prompt officials said their investigation of the incident, conducted in conjunction with Gary-based Methodist Hospitals, the company's sponsor and authority for employee certifications, determined the medic had acted "outside of (the) normal scope of practice."

East Chicago is creating an advisory board for regular reviews of Prompt's performance during its five-year contract.

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