2 DC firefighters under investigation for failing to recognize patient was shot

The D.C. fire department is investigating two of its firefighters after they failed to notice a patient they were caring for had a serious gunshot wound.

The initial assessment was that the man was just high on PCP.

Last Friday night, D.C. police were called to a shooting in the 200 block of L Street in Southwest. It is in a neighborhood just a few blocks from Nationals Park and across the street from the First District police station.

Officers immediately found one gunshot victim and that is all investigators thought they had until doctors and nurses at George Washington University Hospital cut off the clothes of a second man thought to only be high on PCP.

When EMTs and paramedics are called to medical emergencies in the city, they are trained to assess their patients in a variety of ways.

"When we come on the scene as EMTs and paramedics, we are then the highest level of care," said Aretha Lyles, president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 3721, the union that represents paramedics and EMTs. "MPD is not the highest level of care. We should not be following what MPD tells us. We need to do a physical assessment - meaning we need to touch the patient, we need to speak to the patient, the patient needs to speak back to us."

And here is why.

When D.C. police first got on the scene Friday night, they found a gunshot victim sitting in a chair in front of a home at 235 L Street. They were then told another man needed medical attention inside another unit nearby at 227 L Street.

According to the police report, when officers got inside, they found a man who was unconscious and breathing, and when they checked him for any signs of trauma, they found none. Ambulance personnel found the same.

But when they got this man to the hospital, doctors found he had been shot.

Here is what first responders had to say on the call to dispatch when they got on the scene.

First responder: "Engine 7 to communications - are you sending any additional units out to L Street?"

Dispatcher: "Affirm. We also have a report of a person in front of 227 L Street, Southwest, too, okay?"

First responder: "Another shooting?"

Dispatcher: "Another patient from the shooting - correct."

First responder: "Well, MPD does not have any other reports of any other shootings. They do have a report of a harmful patient on PCP."

According to the police report, that man was taken to George Washington University Hospital by Ambulance 23 and it wasn't until he was inside that doctors and nurses found a gunshot wound that went through the man's back and out his stomach.

"That tells me that the EMT/firefighters did not do a complete assessment, they didn't do a proper assessment, they didn't follow protocol to the assessments that we have in place that should have been done to find these life-threatening injuries," said Lyles.

She is concerned the public is not being properly served and assessments are not being done at the highest level of care.

Sources familiar with the investigation said the firefighters were immediately taken off the street after the error was discovered and placed in what is called "a no patient contact status." They have both been assigned to the training academy.

D.C. Fire and EMS sent FOX 5 this statement Thursday evening:

"Our initial investigation has determined that the patient exam conducted by our personnel was not sufficient.

"From the outset, one of our goals has been to establish a medical routine that provides a high level of patient care. This month, hands on refresher training will begin that will reemphasize the basics of how our members conduct patient assessments, execute high performance CPR and accurately document patient examinations. The training is expected to take about six to eight weeks to complete.

"Once the third party provider contract is implemented, additional training will begin each month allowing our members to become more proficient in our standard of patient care.

"There was a breakdown in upholding our standard in this incident; we must be diligent and thorough. The first leg in achieving and maintaining our standard of patient care starts with training."