- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 1, 2006

D.C. Fire Chief Adrian H. Thompson said he was “furious” when he discovered in July two special reports documenting negligent care given to slain journalist David E. Rosenbaum that contradicted accounts from his own personnel.

“We had no idea we were being misled,” Chief Thompson said yesterday.

The reports, written by an emergency medical services (EMS) lieutenant and captain three weeks after the Jan. 6 attack, contained firsthand observations about blood visible on the back of Mr. Rosenbaum’s head and right ear and unresponsive and dilated pupils.

They contradicted what first responders and the department’s medical director, Dr. Amit Wadhwa, who was working at the Howard University Hospital emergency department the night Mr. Rosenbaum was brought in, told investigators.

It was those accounts that led Chief Thompson to declare in January that “appropriate measures were taken and EMS providers met all standards of care” in the incident.

Making matters worse, the special reports were not made available to the Office of the Inspector General until after Chief Thompson discovered them in July — a month after the investigation was completed.

A fire department spokesman told The Washington Times on Monday that the special reports were forwarded to Assistant Chief of Operations Douglas Smith, the department’s second in command but, for whatever reason, were “overlooked.”

Asked whether he accepted that version of events, Chief Thompson said only that he was disappointed he did not receive the documents sooner.

“I’m disappointed for the city,” he said. “It gave the whole city a black eye.”

Chief Thompson would not comment on whether any further disciplinary action may be taken as a result of the memos being misplaced, but sources close to the situation said that corrective action is being considered against everyone who came into contact with the reports and failed to realize their importance.

Dr. Wadhwa has since resigned from the department.

The special reports were made public last week by Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby along with an August letter to then-City Administrator Robert C. Bobb, which says the failure to receive the special reports in a timely manner “adversely affected” the investigation.

Kenneth Lyons, president of the union that represents the city’s civilian emergency medical workers, said it was a stretch to think that documents crucial to the investigation had been mislaid.

“The reports totally contradicted the statements of the team and the statements of the agency after its investigation,” he said.

“They knew the truth, but they did everything they possibly could to thwart, to obstruct, to frustrate the investigation.”

Mr. Lyons said that even if fire officials honestly failed to appreciate the importance of the documents, the mistake would underscore the notion that firefighters should not administer emergency medical assistance.

Adrian M. Fenty, the Democratic nominee who is expected to win Tuesday’s election for mayor, pledged during his campaign to remove EMS from the administration of the fire department and dismiss the fire chief, in part because of the failures surrounding the Rosenbaum response.

Chief Thompson said yesterday that he is aware of the pledge but thinks he can still be effective.

“Let me finish cleaning this thing up,” he said. “When I’m done, I’ll walk off into the sunset, but let me finish the job and make it more effective and efficient and not be politicized.”

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