Monday, April 27, 2009

Negligence? Or Bad Reporting?

I read this article from the Worcester Telegram and Gazette as well as many of the follow-on comments that were posted.

It stinks.

On the surface, this looks like a serious shit-storm; anytime a death like this happens and EMS providers are involved there is huge fallout. If I were part of this man’s family I suspect I would also be taking the same actions that they are. And if the two Paramedics in question are guilty of doing what they’ve been accused of doing, then losing their jobs is the least that could have happened to them.

However, something really bothers me about this. This is about two Paramedics that really, truly screwed up. It should not be an indictment on the rest of us who do our jobs properly and to the best of our abilities, who write proper documentation, and most importantly, follow the prime rule we have as health care providers: First Do No Harm. I know so many EMS providers who exemplify this rule – they are good at what they do, and they care. They don’t do things which could hurt their patients. And they don’t lie on the reports they write.

Last thing: I know a few people that work for Worcester EMS – technically, it is U. Mass. Memorial EMS, but they cover the city of Worcester – and those that I know are very good at what they do. They work insane schedules and have really high call volumes, and they do deal with a lot of people that abuse the system. I can sympathize with that as this sort of thing exists almost everywhere. With that said, it doesn’t mean that anyone has the right to mis-treat a person they are charged with taking care of, regardless of the circumstances.

Comments are welcome and encouraged. If there is more to the story, and anyone knows that, I would like very much to hear it. Because there is nothing that bothers me more than hearing stories like this one. It gives the rest of us – who try hard to do things right – a bad rap.

7 comments:

Karen Brook Westhaver said...

Oh my oh....I read the article (and a whole lot of the comments) from the link in your post and feel much sorrow and anger about this whole thing. As a former paramedic years ago, that this *reporting* does appear to be more a broader smear rather than what should be/have been a focus on the specifics of those immediately and directly involved in this particular case infuriates me. Not being familiar with this particular newspaper, I don't know if this is the sort of fodder which generally passes for "journalism" or "reporting" for them or the too often seen crapola hyped to sensationalize an already bad situation just to sell more papers. Never having served in Worcester, I did spend a lot of time in the ER of the UM Medical Center during the many long months' course of time my step-daughter had a harrowing battle with a rare non-Hodgkin's T-Cell Lymphoma (which she won, thank God...cancer free for 15 years). Over that time, I got to see many of the trucks roll in from the service written about, and observe/overhear a whole lot of consistently excellent standard of care given for many extraordinarily challenging cases. I hope those who read this article take it for what it's worth...if there's a bird cage handy, line the bottom of it. If some garbage needs wrapping, well, then, there you go. Paramedics (you know I'm talking all levels and areas of this profession) are among the most driven-to-excellence people I know. Generous of spirit, going the extra 10 miles and so often at personal risk...unsung, underpaid and many who under other circumstances should/could/would have out-doctored the MDs. And I know lots of situations when Paramedics' DX and interventions were different from the assessing/treating MD's opinion upon arrival --- but because they were RIGHT, lots more people got to survive who otherwise would likely not. Great post, Walt, about a bad situation. Sorry my "comment" was so long, but, well it just took that many words.

Walt Trachim said...

The Worcester Telegram & Gazette has historically been a reliable news source, at least for as long as I can remember. So to have seen a story like this in the way it was reported really was quite troubling. Accuracy notwithstanding, it was a big hit to deliver on those of us who work in the EMS community.

Don't ever worry about the length of a comment, Karen - as far as I'm concerned it is never, ever a problem. Besides, your comments are always thoughtful, without exception.

It is good to know that this young lady you talk about is doing well. I'm sure at least some of that is due to family who cares as much about her as you do.

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Karen Brook Westhaver said...

Thanks for your kind words, Walt. I hope my comments helped to somehow soothe what's going to take some time and intentional, deliberate un-thinking about for it to be less intense :-)BTW thanks for posting such cool other blogs! I've been having some fun over there at the Serenity Hospital. A few of the situations are SO similar to ones from our practice. Especially the "naked" phenomena with Schizophrenia. Man. Now you guys must see too much (in every sense of the word) of that. Oh! And hope the shoe shopping was successful :-)

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brendan said...

I went to college in Worcester. The T&G once wrote a hatchet piece on our school, and people were pretty upset. A columnist in our school paper the following week wrote, "You need to remember that the Telegram isn't worth the Canadian money its printed on."

I have a hard time picturing how this article could have been more slanted.

Journalism fail.

TOTWTYTR said...

I've fortunately, never been involved in an incident that made the papers in this way. I have, however, read newspaper accounts of stories about which I had first hand knowledge. All of those articles have had both major and minor inaccuracies.

The media just loves to sensationalize negative stories, this is no exception. We certainly will not learn what really happened from reading the T&G.