- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Administrative errors led to 15 firefighters who recently completed advanced medical training being told that their tests could be shredded because the city had not paid their test fees, D.C. fire officials said yesterday.

According a letter from the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, an agency that certifies emergency medical providers, the firefighters also were notified that the fire department had failed to supply copies of certifications required to be eligible to even sit for the exam.

The problem began Monday, when firefighters who were expecting letters saying they passed the registry exam started getting letters saying that the $45 test fee had not been paid.

The 15 firefighters who volunteered for the eight-month intermediate paramedic training course, and about five more who were taking the intermediate paramedic test a second time, are considered a crucial component in bolstering the number of emergency medical personnel capable of providing advanced life support in the most critical medical emergencies.

“The problem was an administrative oversight by the Fire and EMS Department individual who processes the applications and with the registry personnel who process the applications when they arrive,” said Alan Etter, a fire department spokesman.

Mr. Etter said fire department personnel failed to submit proof that the candidates were successfully licensed as emergency medical technicians, which would have made them eligible to take the test.

He also said the test fees were sent using a single purchase order but that national registry personnel did not process them as a bulk payment and were awaiting additional checks.

Mr. Etter said that fire officials contacted the national registry and resolved the misunderstanding regarding the payment yesterday. He also said the required certifications had been collected and sent yesterday by overnight mail to the registry’s headquarters in Columbus, Ohio.

During a D.C. Council Judiciary Committee hearing in January, Fire Chief Adrian H. Thompson said that by January 2007 the department would hire only firefighters who were certified paramedics or who would be trained as paramedics upon entering the department.

Mr. Etter said EMS training remains the No. 1 priority of Chief Thompson, who has touted his plan to create a response system with all members trained in advanced life support.

Such a system requires 17 of the city’s 34 ambulances and 16 of the city’s 33 fire engines to be staffed with paramedics. The paramedic units would be strategically placed around the city so a paramedic unit could respond to any critical call in eight minutes or less.

Fire officials Sunday placed three additional paramedic engine companies into service, bringing the total number to 11. They expect to reach the goal of 16 by the end of the year.

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