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Home > Topics > EMS Management

NY EMT suspended for transporting 4-year-old had previous violations

Squad Captain John Gavaris said the EMT would not have been suspended had he not had a record "of violating our policies and not following our rules"

By EMS1 Staff

ELLENVILLE, N.Y. — A 20-year-old EMT who was suspended and resigned after transporting a sick 4-year-old in an ambulance was disciplined in the past for violating safety protocol, according to the squad’s captain.

The Daily Freeman reports that the captain, John Gavaris, said EMT Stephen Sawyer was at the squad’s station Nov. 20 with another EMT when a call for help came in from the parent of a 4-year-old who was having seizures.

Two minutes later, Gavaris said, a second call was received regarding an 80-year-old man who had fallen and was bleeding from his arm, according to the report.

EMT Sawyer, despite not being authorized to make decisions about which calls should take priority, told the other EMT to answer the second call, according to Gavaris. He said EMT Sawyer, who is one year too young to drive the volunteer squad’s ambulance but does drive a smaller ambulance for a paid service, should not have instructed the other squad members to answer that call, according to the report.

“They should have never listened to him. Protocol is to go to the first call unless the other one is of a more critical nature,” the captain said. “They listened to (Sawyer) and trusted his judgment because he worked for a paid service.”

EMT Sawyer thought another driver was on his way, which turned out not to be the case, and he ultimately responded to the seizure call alone, Gavaris said. “He delayed transport on a patient,” he said.

Gavaris said a driver and EMT simply should have responded to the first call when it came in, according to the report.

Even though EMT Sawyer was at fault on Nov. 20, Gavaris said, he probably would not have been suspended had he not had a record “of violating our policies and not following our rules. ... Had this been the first incident, he would have been told not to do it again.”

Gavaris' attorney advised him not to discuss the nature of the previous incidents, according to the report.

When the squad’s board met on Monday, it voted 4-2 to suspend EMT Sawyer.

“I believe all agreed a suspension was warranted,” Gavaris said.

EMT Sawyer immediately resigned from the squad rather than accept a suspension, according to the report.

Gavaris said squad rules regarding the age of ambulance drivers are standard and “you’d be hard-pressed to find one (volunteer) company in Ulster County which allows anyone under 21 to drive.”

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Joe Smith Joe Smith Thursday, January 02, 2014 7:41:10 PM In light of his inability to follow SOPS, his resignation was a good decision on his part.
Chase Barnett Chase Barnett Thursday, January 02, 2014 9:04:03 PM Agreed. I believe there would have been a lack of trust and respect from management had he accepted the suspension and returned at the end. In other words, he probably would have had a target on his back.
Elizabeth Duval Elizabeth Duval Thursday, January 02, 2014 9:12:13 PM If he had violated so many SOP's in the past and was too young to "make the decision he did" why did they listen to him?
Zachary Valencik Zachary Valencik Thursday, January 02, 2014 9:18:05 PM Sounds to me he already had a target on his back.. regardless SOP's are SOP's and need be followed. Doesn't matter if you agree with them or feel a different way is better or not.
Mac Mcmakin Mac Mcmakin Thursday, January 02, 2014 11:59:54 PM Hmm old enough to be certified but not old enough to drive why would you put him on if he can do the whole job.
Christopher Maloney Christopher Maloney Friday, January 03, 2014 12:25:24 AM A good example of the inflexibility of SOP, as opposed to SOG's, which are used in my service. In any case, this particular service's perceived attitude to driver skill seems archaic. As I've said before, perhaps a driver skills course or some type of management on that front would alleviate some of the anxiety ..certainly a person focused enough to manage to attain paramedic level certification can be a certified driver..
Jodi Pco Jodi Pco Friday, January 03, 2014 1:33:26 AM Sounds like "paid" vs.. "volunteer". I was new at a FD and came on an accident on a long dirt road with one person unconscious. Cell phones would not work and sent another driver on to get help. I stayed until help( my department) came and helicoptered out. I was fired because " (I) had a basic med kit in a personal car and NO ONE had these items in their personal vehicles. Setting a president of care that was above the standard of care." This was not tolerated . Only difference was I was a retired 20 year vet who wanted to retire in a small town. As a paid I saw more action in one week than they had in 15 years.
Lauren Nicole Shinn Lauren Nicole Shinn Friday, January 03, 2014 3:46:56 AM Where was his partner at? You have to have two to a rig. One person to treat the other to drive. Some states do have those provisions for insurance reasons. Here's an even better question. Where was the officer in charge?
Ashley McWilliams Ashley McWilliams Friday, January 03, 2014 5:40:50 AM It was a volunteer organization meaning people come when they please. Most don't have assigned times to be there or partners because they aren't getting paid.
Chanda Corbin Martin Chanda Corbin Martin Friday, January 03, 2014 6:53:31 AM I agree! If he can't drive why have him there? That just causes more problems. If he is old enough to provide care for a patient he should he old enough to drive. I will never understand why some agencies have this policy allowing anyone to be a provider but can't drive. Just stupid.
Nate Yingling Nate Yingling Friday, January 03, 2014 6:55:58 AM This is fairly local for me and I can't believe this is getting this much attention. Sounds like someone wants their "15 minutes of fame." I have already had this debate with a few people. Simple...rules are rules and when they are broken you deal with the consequences. Accept your punishment instead of sensationalizing it to media and allowing them to make more of it then it is and making all EMS providers look like circus clowns.
Nate Yingling Nate Yingling Friday, January 03, 2014 6:57:32 AM Because MANY people are mindless sheep and are unable to think for themselves.
Lauren Nicole Shinn Lauren Nicole Shinn Friday, January 03, 2014 7:13:53 AM Still need two to a rig. One to treat and the other to drive
Chuck Bloomingburg Chuck Bloomingburg Friday, January 03, 2014 7:35:07 AM Read the article and you would know where his partner was.
Lauren Nicole Shinn Lauren Nicole Shinn Friday, January 03, 2014 7:40:21 AM He can't tell his partner to go to the other call. My opinion everyone who worked that shift should have been suspended for a shift. Who the hell is that stupid? Now I see why they've had problems with him in the past
Jenny H Spradley Jenny H Spradley Saturday, January 04, 2014 3:42:32 AM I agree with this statement!
Royce Edwards Royce Edwards Tuesday, January 07, 2014 5:11:57 PM I disagree. A lot of volunteer squats have under the age of 21. These Certified EMTs possess the skills and credentials to attend to a patient even though they don't meet the squads minimum age to drive. The age of 21 is chosen by many squads based on insurance company guidelines, and as you can tell from the article the 20 year old was a driver on his paid service. I agree he should have been suspended but volunteer squads cannot turn away medically qualified members because they are too young to drive.

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