- The Washington Times - Friday, June 10, 2005

D.C. fire department documents show senior officials had prior warning that critical drugs would expire June 1, despite statements that they did not know in advance that paramedics were carrying expired drugs.

According to internal memos received by The Washington Times, a city paramedic informed a senior manager of the Emergency Medical Services Division in May about the problem.

Fire Chief Adrian H. Thompson said yesterday that he is personally investigating who was notified and when, and that he will determine who, if anyone, will be held accountable.

“I’m looking very closely to see how it occurred, why it happened and make certain it can’t happen again,” he said.

Chief Thompson said that as of yesterday paramedics had “adequate” supplies of medications.

The Times reported Thursday that D.C. paramedics said their supervisors directed them to use the expired medications because fresh supplies were unavailable.

The medications included such lifesaving drugs as epinephrine, which is used to treat asthmatics and allergic reactions, and nitroglycerin, which is used for heart-attack victims.

According to the internal memorandums, paramedic Jasper W. Sterling wrote Capt. Henry Lyles on May 20 acknowledging instructions to check supply bags used for special events to make sure the medications were all current.

Mr. Sterling lists four medications that were set to expire June 1, and 11 others that would expire before the end of the year.

In another memo, dated May 23, Mr. Sterling documents his efforts to replace the medications that would soon expire.

“Medical supply was not able to provide replacements for all the medications in question, and were insufficiently stocked with others,” Mr. Sterling wrote. He then warned that the bags were carrying a series of medications that would expire in 2005, including epinephrine 1:1000. He listed its expiration date as June 1.

Chief Thompson said Capt. Lyles, who is in charge of special operations, was not the appropriate person to notify about the lack of supplies.

“They should have gone to procurement about the medications,” he said.

Kenneth Lyons, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3721, which represents the city’s medics, said the memo should have been a warning to all supervisors, regardless of which one received it, since all the units get their medications from the same place.

“That red flag was totally ignored,” he said.

Chief Thompson said it was not clear whether the problem was the fault of EMS administrators or supply personnel in the property division.

Mr. Lyons said he received reports yesterday morning that some medics on the overnight shift were called to EMS headquarters in Northwest and ordered to write reports indicating they were not carrying expired medications on June 1 and that they were not directed to use expired medications.

“They felt they were being brought up there with the intent to intimidate them and to submit documents that were not true,” he said. “If the chief is going to investigate anything, that’s what he needs to investigate.”

Chief Thompson said he had no knowledge of the reports.

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