- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 18, 2006

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday ordered an independent investigation into the emergency response to this month’s fatal attack on retired New York Times journalist David E. Rosenbaum.

The order came as the D.C. Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services announced procedural changes designed to cut response times. The changes were a reaction to an internal investigation of the response in the Rosenbaum case, said Alan Etter, a department spokesman.

Mr. Rosenbaum, 63, was beaten and robbed Jan. 6 in his normally quiet Northwest neighborhood. It took an ambulance 23 minutes to get to the scene, in part because it was dispatched from Providence Hospital, six miles away. The departmental probe found that there was no closer unit available. A fire engine with paramedics was on the scene within five minutes of a call for help, but they were unable to take Mr. Rosenbaum to a hospital.

There also were questions about whether the first paramedics on the scene took appropriate action because they first thought Mr. Rosenbaum was drunk or having a seizure.

Chief Adrian S. Thompson concluded that proper procedures were followed, but the mayor decided another review was needed to ensure public confidence in the department.

“A top-to-bottom review of this incident, by an independent source, is necessary to answer the questions that have been posed in the wake of the tragic death of David Rosenbaum,” Mr. Williams said. “We all need to know that everything was done properly, not only in this case but in every case.”

City Administrator Robert C. Bobb will determine who will conduct the investigation.

Chief Thompson also said he thought changes were necessary.

“We’re not just going to let it go as it is and say ‘case closed.’ We’re looking at what can be done better and what needs to be improved,” he told WUSA-TV (Channel 9).

Supervisors in the communications center will have increased discretion in reassigning ambulances to areas where they are needed if there is a shortage in any area.

Ambulances also will be required to take patients to the closest appropriate hospital, even if a patient has injuries that are not life-threatening. Paramedics previously had been allowed to decide which hospital was appropriate for those patients.

“There’s no more gray area,” Mr. Etter said.

Dispatchers also will give first responders timed alerts advising them of estimated response times for ambulances. That will allow the first responders to reassess the patient’s condition and possibly call for advanced life support if it is not already being sought, Mr. Etter said.

Also, the department’s computer-assisted dispatch system will be modified so that Global Positioning System satellite receivers can pick up more possible units that could respond to a call.

“The dispatcher will have more options in determining which appropriate units should go, depending on what kind of emergency it is,” Mr. Etter said.

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