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Panel recommends reforms for D.C. EMS following reporter’s death

The Associated Press
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON — A task force created to reform the District of Columbia’s emergency medical system following the beating death of a veteran New York Times reporter recommended Thursday that the city strengthen training and oversight of patient care.

The panel opted not to recommend the more radical path of splitting fire and EMS into two separate agencies, despite a push by some emergency workers and community groups.

The task force was formed as part of a legal settlement between the city and the family of New York Times reporter David E. Rosenbaum. The family agreed in March to set aside a $20 million lawsuit against the city if officials worked to dramatically improve emergency medical care.

The panel said D.C. Fire and EMS should be kept together as a “fully integrated, all-hazards agency.” Their recommendations included instituting a yearly evaluation process, increasing emergency medical training for firefighters and boosting the pay and benefits for paramedics and emergency medical technicians.

The panel said all personnel should have minimum qualifications in basic levels of emergency medical services, fire prevention, fire suppression, hazardous materials and technical rescue.

The panel also recommended appointing an assistant chief for EMS to be responsible for analysis and planning for all medical units.

The 13-member panel included Toby Halliday, Rosenbaum’s son-in-law; the family’s attorney, Patrick Regan; and the chief of Boston’s emergency medical services, Richard Serino.

“I believe lives will be saved as the result of our work,” Halliday said.

Rosenbaum’s daughter, Dorothy Rosenbaum, said there are signs the city has already made improvements.

“I think this is a good start,” she said at the news conference where the recommendations were announced. “I think the proof will be in what happens next.”

Rosenbaum, 63, was beaten with a heavy plastic pipe during a mugging near his home in January 2006. The longtime reporter in the Times’ Washington bureau had retired just days before the attack.

Emergency workers initially believed Rosenbaum was drunk and didn’t try to determine whether he was injured, a city report found. An ambulance also bypassed the closest hospital, instead taking him nearly two miles out of the way. He died two days later.

Kenny Lyons, head of the EMT union, said he was “slightly disappointed” in the panel’s recommendations and would continue to push for a separate EMS agency.

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