UPDATED: One less paramedic on DC’s streets. FF/PM Jon Botwin under HIPAA investigation after staffing shortage letter to council.


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Read previous coverage & letter here & here

Bob Barnard, WTTG-TV/Fox 5:

A DC paramedic who publicly criticized staff  shortages this week says the fire department has now placed him on  administrative leave.

The paramedic, Jon Botwin, wrote a letter to city  council last week following the death of a 5-month-old baby girl.

In his email, a copy of which was obtained by Fox 5  News, the nine-year veteran firefighter told councilmembers “our city is in  danger” because of what Botwin calls “ridiculous mis-management” of the city’s  paramedic corps.

“All I can say right now is I’ve had to report to  the fire chief’s office and I’ve been directed that I’m placed on administrative  leave,” Botwin told us outside the Reeves Center late Thursday afternoon.  “That’s all I can say at this point.”

Botwin says he was supposed to be driving Engine 26,  housed on Rhode Island Ave NE until 7am Friday. He was also serving as its lone paramedic.

Botwin’s letter was written after the death of  Zariah Bolden. Botwin was the first paramedic to arrive at her North Capitol  Street home last Thursday afternoon; 8 minutes after dispatchers got the  call.

“To tell you the truth,” says Zariah’s father,  Philip Bolden, “I just wanted them to hurry.”

The two closest engine companies that day were not  staffed with paramedics.

“It does raise an issue was to whether or not this  is some kind of retaliation,” says Fox 5 News reporter Paul Wagner. He’s been  reporting on the troubles within DC Fire and EMS for months now.

“This is something that is talked about constantly  within the fire department,” Wagner says. “About the fact that there are so few  paramedics in the city. And the lack of paramedics has everybody concerned that  the EMS care is not up to the high quality that it should be in the city. And  that’s the real concern here.”

All Botwin did was wonder aloud whether baby  Zariah’s life could have been saved had the city staffed a paramedic closer to  her home.

In a statement to Fox 5 News, DC Fire and EMS  officials tell us they “have been contacted by the District’s privacy officer  who has some very serious concerns about the letter.”

The email goes on to say “the department’s medical  director has placed Firefighter Botwin on non-patient contact. He is not on  administrative leave.

Benjamin Freed, The Washingtontonian:

A paramedic who sent a letter earlier to the DC Council this week complaining that the agency is woefully understaffed has been taken off of street duty, says Ed Smith, the president of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 36.

Smith says the medic, Jon Botwin, has been detailed to “day work,” meaning that he’ll be station-bound rather than riding out on emergency calls. A spokesman for the fire department says that Botwin is involved in an internal investigation, though he will not say if the letter plays a part in the inquiry. But Smith smells another conflict bubbling up between the department and its rank-and-file.

“A medic reached out doing a whistleblower act about the stress and burnout level firefighters and medics are facing, so the department pulls him off the street,” Smith tells Washingtonian.

“The thing that gets lost in people’s complaints or criticisms is that we are fully staffed with the number of FTEs that we’re actually allotted from a budget perspective,” says department spokesman Tim Wilson. “By and large, the complaints about staffing is an inaccurate complaint.”

As for the report of Botwin being removed from ambulance duty, though, Wilson declines to comment. “It’s a matter that’s being investigated internally and the department won’t issue a comment,” he says. “It may have to do with the letter.”

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