County officials to reopen review of medics suspended over medical call

Hillsborough County will reopen its review of four paramedics facing discipline in the case of a stroke patient who died, saying it needs to know more

By Anastasia Dawson
Tampa Bay Times

TAMPA, Fla. — Hillsborough County will reopen its review of four paramedics facing discipline in the case of a stroke patient who died, saying it needs to know more about why the medics decided not to transport her during an emergency call.

County Administrator Mike Merrill announced the decision after the paramedics gave statements during closed hearings into the matter Tuesday at County Center.

"The additional review will allow us to ascertain the underlying reasons for the fire medics’ judgments and decisions," Merrill said in a news release, "as well as to determine any other contributing factors in this matter."

The leader of the union local representing the firefighters blasted Merrill after the hearings, complaining that he moved too soon to discipline them.

"Today is the first time my folks could tell their side of the story," said Derrik Ryan, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 2294. "My guys are now fearful of running street calls because of what’s being threatened (against) them."

An estimated 200 fire medics, who turned out at County Center to show their support for the four facing a hearing, applauded Ryan’s statement.

Merrill suspended the four medics July 20 after reviewing a county internal investigation into how they responded to a July 4 call from the mother of Crystle Galloway, who was found passed out and drooling in her home.

The medics, who were told the 30-year-old woman had given birth by Cesarean section six days earlier, carried Galloway down some stairs but never examined her, the review found. She was taken to the hospital by her mother and died five days later.

The investigation began after Galloway’s mother, Nicole Black, complained that the medics and Hillsborough County deputies told her that her daughter couldn’t afford a $600 ambulance ride to the hospital. Black said in an interview last week that they also suggested her daughter had been drinking.

Union President Ryan told the Tampa Bay Times last week that the county was trying to fire the four medics. Ryan acknowledged that the medics may have erred by taking the word of deputies already on the scene, who had told them the mother just needed help getting her daughter loaded into her car for a ride to the hospital.

But Tuesday, Ryan reiterated his earlier statements defending the four against the allegations in the county’s efforts to discipline them.

"The accusations against my four members are crazy," Ryan said, insisting "we never nor would we ever" decline to take someone to the hospital or try to talk them out of it, talk about money in connection with a transport, nor consider a patient’s skin color.

Galloway and her mother are black.

Hillsborough County spokesman Lianna Lopez said last week that proper procedures were followed in the county’s actions against the four medics and that they were given the opportunity to provide their version of the incident in writing.

"These accounts were considered prior to any decision to proceed with a pre-disciplinary hearing," Lopez said then.

In his statement Tuesday, Merrill said interviews with the medics and with Black will be conducted by county officials in accordance with state laws.

Copyright 2018 Tampa Bay Times

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