Denver hospital medics claim transport decisions favored hospital, not patient

A year-long investigation into Denver Health practices revealed that paramedics were encouraged to bypass other hospitals, without considering the needs of the patient

By Jessie Forand

DENVER — An investigation into ambulance transport practices by a Colorado hospital revealed startling admissions by paramedics who say there were pressured to bring patients to the EMS-affiliated hospital.

According to a Denver 7 investigation, Denver Health paramedics were pressured to bypass other hospitals in favor of Denver Health.

“They are in it for the ego and the money,” one unnamed paramedic said of Denver Health.
“They are in it for the ego and the money,” one unnamed paramedic said of Denver Health. (Photo/Denver Health)

“They are in it for the ego and the money,” one unnamed paramedic said of Denver Health.

Another unnamed provider said the center’s paramedics fall into two categories – “the ones that take all level-one trauma patients back to Denver Health and former Denver Health paramedics.”

Multiple people claimed that the hospital ended the employment of those who didn’t conform, Denver 7 reported.

“[Denver Health is] not in it for what’s right for the patient,” one paramedic told the news organization.

The issue

One cited example of the claims against Denver Health involves a paramedic who ignored doctor’s orders to take a gunshot victim to the closes hospital, in favor of Denver Health.

On May 11, an individual walked into a nearby emergency department, Denver 7 reported. The person’s injury was too serious for treatment on site and a doctor called 911. When a Denver Health ambulance arrived, the doctor requested the patient be transported to UCHealth – the closest hospital, which was seven miles away.  

The paramedic opted to transport that patient 19 miles to Denver Health instead.

“I believe the paramedic who made that decision was instructed, encouraged, trained and bullied into going to Denver Health,” said one of the paramedics who spoke with Denver7.

As a result, UCHealth filed a formal complaint with Denver Health, questioning the decision to bypass UCHealth’s hospital, one of more than a dozen transport decisions by Denver Health questioned in nine months.

“This is a patient safety issue,” Dr. Danny Willner, UCHealth emergency room doctor, said. “We know that time is important for trauma patients. We know the further you transport someone, the less likely they are going to have a good outcome from a traumatic injury.”

Dr. Kevin McVaney, who is the head of the paramedic division at Denver Health, maintains no paramedic has faced discipline for opting to transport patients to a different facility. However, an internal email obtained by Denver 7 shows that McVaney admitted the gunshot wound patient should have gone to UCHealth.

In September of 2020, the Mile High Regional Emergency Medical and Trauma Advisory Council adopted a guideline directing paramedics to take patients to “the most rapidly accessible appropriate facility,” as opposed to the closest, which Denver Health has cited in response to the recent claims.

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