- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 21, 2008

D.C. Fire and EMS Chief Dennis L. Rubin has asked the city’s inspector general to investigate the death of a Northeast man after the man called 911 for chest pains but reportedly was told by paramedics that he probably was suffering from acid reflux.

“I have asked the inspector general to review the operational report that’s being finalized,” Chief Rubin said in an interview with The Washington Times. “So the inspector general will come in. We have absolutely nothing to hide, and we will get to the bottom of it. And if there are changes that need to be made, changes will occur.”

Edward Givens, 39, was found dead by family members in his home in the 700 block of Division Avenue in Northeast on the morning of Dec. 3, hours after he called 911 complaining of chest pain and trouble breathing.

Mr. Givens’ family members said paramedics evaluated him, asked him what he had eaten that night and told him he likely was suffering from acid reflux.

Chief Rubin said the fire department was investigating the incident and would forward the results of its investigation to the city’s Office of the Inspector General.

“It is under thorough investigation. The investigation took place within less than an hour of realizing that it had happened,” he said. “The inspector general will come in and do a very thorough secondhand review, looking over every detail.”

Mr. Givens’ mother, Lolitha Givens, referred questions about the investigation to her attorney, William Lightfoot. Mr. Lightfoot did not return calls seeking comment.

The incident immediately drew parallels to the January 2006 incident involving journalist David E. Rosenbaum, who died from injuries he suffered after he was beaten and robbed while walking near his Northwest home.

An inspector general’s review of that case found that responding emergency medical technicians concluded that Mr. Rosenbaum had been drinking and failed to properly diagnose his head wound. The inspector general’s report found there had been an “unacceptable chain of failure” in the response to the medical call and “alarming levels of complacency and indifference” on the part of the first responders.

Chief Rubin said he could not speak to whether the paramedics responding to Mr. Givens offered appropriate care, but he did say there was no repeat of the apathy that marked the Rosenbaum response.

“One thing I know for sure … there was no indifference,” he said. “I think I can say categorically that the EMS members and the firefighter members didn’t shirk their duties. I’m not going to comment whether they did perfect or not.”

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat and chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, said he wrote a letter to Chief Rubin seeking an independent evaluation of the response to the incident.

“What I had in mind was that the IG will look at this,” Mr. Mendelson said, adding that the fire department “cannot afford suspicion” about the conclusions of its investigation.

Chief Rubin said he understood the request.

“We have a credibility problem because of Rosenbaum,” he said. “Since we have that, we’re going to bring in that outside party, the inspector general, to look over our shoulder to say ‘yea’ or ‘nay.’”

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