State investigating some Suffolk EMS personnel

Published 10:13 pm Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services is investigating a complaint it received against some members of the Suffolk Department of Fire and Rescue, a spokesman for the state office confirmed Wednesday.

“We received a complaint that there were questions of validity of qualifications that were performed by students in the field,” said Michael Berg, manager for the regulation and compliance division of the Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services. The office is part of the Virginia Department of Health.

The complaint, Berg said, accused “multiple people that to our knowledge are firefighters with the city of Suffolk” who were students in the paramedic program.

Email newsletter signup

“These were individuals who were in an accredited training program who were upgrading their certifications,” Berg said. The students would have been upgrading certifications, for example, from EMT-Intermediate to EMT-Paramedic, which would have allowed them to perform more advanced skills on patients in the field.

Because his office is currently investigating the complaint, Berg would not give any further details, but said he hopes to close the investigation within the next 30 days.

City spokeswoman Debbie George said the city’s Department of Fire and Rescue is not a target of the investigation.

Berg said such investigations are infrequent, but they do happen.

“This is not the first time we’ve received a complaint like this,” Berg said. “In the past year or two years, I think we have investigated four, maybe five different complaints [statewide] where allegations of not completing course requirements or falsification of course requirements may have occurred.”

If the investigation reveals the complaint is founded, the Office of Emergency Medical Services can take several enforcement actions.

“Each case is weighed on its own merit,” Berg said.

The office can issue a written notification that the problem needs to be corrected, Berg said. Such a notification is kept on file in his office, but is not posted on the office’s Web site for public viewing.

The next level would involve the issuance of a citation, which is posted for public viewing.

The state office also can issue a correction order, which outlines certain activities that need to occur within a defined time period to correct the problem. A correction order can be issued in conjunction with a written notification or with a citation.

Lastly, the state office can suspend or permanently revoke an individual’s certification. Such actions must go through due process hearings, during which both sides can present evidence and be heard and an adjudication officer will decide the outcome.