- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2007

A task force charged with examining ways to improve the District’s emergency medical services yesterday recommended that agency personnel receive additional training and oversight but did not call for removing the function from the city’s fire department.

“We spent a lot of time together, we discussed and we debated,” said task force member and D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat. “At the end of the day, I think that what we have here is a product that will allow us to give the best care to the people of the District of Columbia.”

The 13-member task force was formed as part of a settlement between the District and the family of journalist David Rosenbaum, who was beaten and robbed by two men while walking in his Northwest neighborhood Jan. 6, 2006. He died two days later.

The Rosenbaum family filed a civil lawsuit in November against the District and Howard University Hospital, charging that a neglectful, botched emergency response and poor care by hospital workers contributed to Mr. Rosenbaum’s death.

The panel — which includes D.C. officials, outside specialists and Mr. Rosenbaum’s son-in-law, Toby Halliday — was required to issue a report within six months with recommendations for emergency medical services (EMS) improvements.

The draft guidelines handed to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty yesterday include appointing an assistant chief for EMS and elevating the medical director’s position to the equivalent of an assistant fire chief.

In addition, the panel recommended that fire and EMS personnel be required to have qualifications in basic levels of emergency medical services, fire prevention and other skills, and that the Department of Health should have greater oversight of EMS, its providers and ambulance companies in the District.

“Mr. Mayor, this is a work in progress,” Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin said after presenting the task force’s draft recommendations to Mr. Fenty during a final meeting of its members yesterday. “I think we can see the finish line.”

The panel did not recommend to Mr. Fenty that EMS become an agency separate from the fire department.

Mr. Fenty pledged last year during his mayoral campaign to remove EMS from the administration of the fire department but has since backed off that pledge and said he is studying the issue.

“I am very likely to accept the recommendations of the task force,” the mayor said yesterday.

The recommendations were largely hailed by task-force members as a good starting point for long-overdue reforms of D.C. emergency services, though Mr. Halliday noted that Boston EMS Chief Richard Serino had “reservations” about the proposals.

Chief Serino was unable to attend yesterday’s meeting, and attempts to teleconference him in to the meeting were unsuccessful.

Chief Rubin said the task force expects to forward a finalized report and recommendations to Mr. Fenty “within a few weeks,” and the mayor said he will work to ensure that the finished findings are implemented.

According to the conditions of their settlement with the city, the Rosenbaum family can reinstate their lawsuit within one year if they are not satisfied with the implementation of the task-force recommendations.

“I appreciate the mayor’s recognition when he said if this is a perfect document it’s just that — a perfect document,” said Daniel Rosenbaum, David Rosenbaum’s son. “We hope that the recommendations are implemented so that the standard of care improves.”

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