RI firefighters' EMT licenses reinstated after suspension
The two Warwick firefighters underwent investigation following a patient's death
By Jack Perry
WARWICK, R.I. — The EMT licenses of two Warwick firefighters have been reinstated following a March suspension by the Rhode Island Department of Health after a woman they declined to take to the hospital died a few hours later.
The emergency medical technician-cardiac license of Lt. Michael Monteiro was reinstated Thursday after the Health Department ratified a consent order with Monteiro, the Warwick Firefighters Local 2748 said in a press release.
The license of Brandon Colombo was reinstated last month, the union said.
The suspensions stemmed from the EMTs' response to a call on Feb. 10 for a 44-year-old woman who had suffered a seizure followed by breathing difficulty, according to the orders.
When the EMTs arrived at 11:49 a.m., the woman was "partially asleep," according to the suspension order. The EMTs talked with a nurse and were urged by residents to take her to a hospital, the suspension orders said, but they ultimately decided against it, saying she was not in acute distress and should follow up with her primary care doctor.
After the EMTs left, a friend of the woman arrived at about 12:30 p.m. and took her to Kent Hospital, where doctors diagnosed tachycardia, the orders said. The woman died at 2:20 p.m. despite life-saving attempts by hospital staff.
At the time, Elizabeth Wiens, an attorney representing Colombo and Monteiro, criticized the state's action, saying, "There are a lot of things in the complaint that are just false."
Wiens said the Health Department took the emergency action based on a complaint, without interviewing Colombo and Monteiro.
In a press release Thursday, the union noted that the the decision against taking the patient to a hospital was made after a discussion with staff and a nurse at the group home.
The patient was asleep when the EMTs arrived and a number of factors were taken into consideration, the union said. The woman was determined to be at her "base-line," or normal state, according to the union. The risk to the patient and staff for contracting COVID was also considered, the union said. Before leaving, the firefighters told staff to call 911 if the patient's status changed, and the Fire Department would return, the union said.
Colombo's consent order on the Health Department's website notes that he did not have direct contact with the patient, and "his partner," Monteiro, decided not to transport the patient. It says Colombo "did not voice or otherwise object to his partner's conclusion or advice."
"Both firefighters deny that their failure to transport the patient earlier in the day caused her death," the union said.
However, the union noted that the Health Department's complaint alleged that the firefighters breached protocol by not taking the woman to the hospital. It also alleged that their patient care report lacked appropriate detail and contained incorrect information, the union said.
Monteiro and Colombo have both agreed to complete continuing education courses covering all aspects of emergency medical services protocol and rules, the union said.
Both firefighters extend their condolences to the family of the woman who died, the union said.
Monteiro was quoted in the release saying, "The learning process never stops, nor should it. As I have in the past, I look forward to honing my skills as a provider.
"I wish I was given an opportunity to be heard before the Department suspended my license, but I am grateful to be back doing what I love," Monteiro said.
Michael Carreiro, president of the Warwick firefighters union, said, "It's always difficult when a patient passes away on or after a call. We understand the Department of Health's obligation to investigate cases following a patient death, but are happy it concluded that Lt. Monteiro's and Firefighter Colombo's licenses should be reinstated.
"It is important to ensure that the Warwick Fire Department is fully staffed for the safety of the community," Carreiro said.
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