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30 FFs, 200 Paramedics Get EMT Licenses Suspended

30 FFs, 200 Paramedics Get EMT Licenses Suspended

The Eagle Tribune via YellowBrix

June 18, 2010

HAVERHILL — State public health officials have suspended the licenses of 207 emergency medical technicians and paramedics across Massachusetts because they were involved in falsifying training records.

That number includes 30 Haverhill firefighters and 35 Trinity EMS ambulance workers, the state said. The suspensions will take effect July 1. Most will be for nine months, but a smaller number will last 45 days, Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach said yesterday.

The announcement was the latest development in a probe of EMTs and paramedics working in several fire departments and ambulance companies. The investigation began a month ago and focuses on reports that rescue workers received documents showing they received required recertification training when they actually did not attend classes.

EMTs are supposed to attend classes on their own every two years to be recertified. In Haverhill, firefighters receive about $1,500 extra to be EMTs.

Among the people involved in the probe was Haverhill firefighter Jeff Given, who admitted in an affidavit that he helped a Trinity ambulance paramedic, who also is a recertification trainer, obtain falsified documentation. The affidavit was filed by state health officials and obtained by The Eagle-Tribune.

Given also told investigators he collected money and obtained the signatures of other Haverhill firefighters who are EMTs on official attendance rosters, the affidavit stated. He gave the money and rosters to Trinity paramedic Leo Nault in a downtown parking lot, the document stated.

Given and Nault could not be reached for comment.

“Nault aided, abetted and/or permitted a total of 170 EMTs to obtain supplemental training credits for training that never took place,” the affidavit said.

The state will not identify any other people targeted in the investigation or the length of their EMT/paramedic suspensions until next week, said Jennifer Manley, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Health. She said the state wants to send each person a letter of notification before releasing their names.

State health officials also recommended that Nault’s certification as an EMT and paramedic be permanently revoked, according to the affidavit. Given and three other “facilitators” worked with Nault in obtaining falsified training documents, the affidavit stated.

Mayor James Fiorentini said fire Chief Richard Borden has assured him the suspensions will not affect the Fire Department’s ability to respond to medical emergencies because there are plenty of other firefighters who have EMT credentials. The mayor also said he does not expect the EMT status suspensions to keep any of the Haverhill firefighters from remaining on the job and performing their other duties.

Chris Dick, director of marketing for Trinity EMS, said there will be “no interruption of service” on the part of his company, which is based in Haverhill and serves several communities in the Merrimack Valley and Southern New Hampshire.

“We have hired 17 new EMTs and paramedics,” Dick said.

He said it remains to be seen what the company will do with the suspended EMTs. Trinity has 250 employees, of whom 180 are EMTs or paramedics, Dick said.

Some of the Trinity workers whose licenses are suspended are “great people, strong EMTs,” he said. They might have been “enticed” by people offering the opportunity to get their recertifications without having to sit through classes, he said.

Auerbach said he is sending the results of the investigation to the attorney general’s office for review. The mayor said that review might result in criminal charges against some of the people who were investigated.

“We’re looking at all our options,” Fiorentini said.

The city will begin its own internal investigation, he said. The mayor conferred with Personnel Director Mary Carrington and City Solicitor William Cox yesterday.

“We don’t know yet,” the mayor said, when asked if there could be additional suspensions or terminations.

Noting that Hamilton and Wenham faced similar problems with firefighters and police officers who were not properly recertified as EMTs, he said he intends to assess how those communities dealt with that situation, which resulted in criminal charges.

According to the affidavit, the Office of Emergency Medical Services, which is under the Department of Public Health, began the probe after finding out from Trinity EMS that several EMTs and paramedics paid Nault for refresher courses and advanced cardiac life support training without attending the required classes.

Nault admitted charging basic EMTs $50 and paramedics $125 “in exchange for submitting falsified training documentation to the department for EMT recertification,” the affidavit stated.