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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"

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.”

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