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DC update: Firefighter/Paramedic Botwin speaks out about desk duty as investigation is underway over HIPAA concerns over staffing letter.


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Previous coverage here, here & here

Read controversial letter

Watch story on HIPAA regulations

Paul Wagner, WTTG-TV/Fox 5:

The D.C. Fire Department says it has some “very  serious concerns” about a letter paramedic Jon Botwin wrote to the D.C. city  council this week–concerns that have to do with patient confidentiality.

In the letter, Botwin reveals a few facts about the  efforts to save the life of a five-month-old girl and discloses some information  about her condition.

The question is–did it cross a line?

Jon Botwin has been taken off the street and told by  the fire department he will have no contact with patients until further  notice.

Instead, the paramedic sat in a room at fire  department headquarters Friday and did nothing.

At issue is an allegation the paramedic may have  disclosed too much information about the little girl he was writing about and  broke what are widely known as HIPAA rules.

Botwin thinks not and a reading of the rules appears  to back him up.

Jon Botwin is a paramedic assigned to Engine 26 on  Rhode Island Avenue Northeast. A week ago Thursday, he along with other EMT’s  and paramedics tried to save the life of five-month-old Zariah Bolden. The first  responders managed to recover a pulse but the little girl died over the  weekend.

In his letter to the council expressing deep  frustration with what happened that day Botwin tells the lawmakers the girl is  five months old, was in cardiac arrest and later died. He also disclosed the  girl’s father called 911 but he never mentioned names, addresses or other  identifying information.

“From the training I have received through the  department it doesn’t appear to me there was anything in there that was a HIPAA  violation”, said Union second vice president Dabney Hudson.

In fact, as the union points out, anyone listening  to a scanner that day would have heard the exact address, the condition of the  child and her age.

The D.C. police report contains even more  information including the father’s name, the child’s date of birth and the  hospital she was taken to.

In addition, the HIPAA rules seem to validate the paramedic’s dire warning to  the council with this clause: “Covered entities may disclose protected health  information that they believe is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and  imminent threat to a person or the public, when such disclosure is made to  someone they believe can prevent or lessen the threat”.

What baffles the union is the fire department’s  decision to take Botwin off the street four days after the letter was sent.

“It means that the number of paramedics that we have  to respond on a daily basis is going to dwindle farther down from where we are,  you know we are downgrading several medic units, several engine companies, EMS  supervisors are taken out of service on a daily basis, we are holding paramedics  over, we are not allowing them to go home because we don’t have enough of them”,  said Hudson.

After being notified he was being taken off the  street, Jon Botwin briefly spoke with Fox 5’s Bob Barnard about his  situation.

“Unfortunately at this point I would have to ask the  Fire Chief for permission to continue the interview, it’s just a procedural  process and I would hate it to be construed as giving an interview without  permission”, said Botwin

“But what you wrote in that letter to the city  council is how you feel is that’s right? Asked Barnard.

“That’s correct”.

The fire department says it placed Jon Botwin on a  non-patient contact status after the privacy officer expressed “very serious  concerns. The same officer also contacted council members and asked them not to  share Botwin’s letter with anyone—even though it’s all over the internet.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • Shhh…

    I’m not a lawyer but I don’t see any violations in Hipaa. At least from what I was taught in the fire dept..

  • BoutTime

    Botwin for union pres!

  • Retired DCFD

    Pushing Buttons to let people in and out, sounds about right for DCFD&EMS punishment squad which still leaves one less medic on the street. Good luck Jon, you will need it going against these fools

  • Anonymous

    All I can say is WOW. Kudos to JB. Articulate and unafraid. THis is really unique for such an organization that is all about “staying in line.” He is staying on the one issue and did not get into the other failures of this regime. Very smart.

    Ellerbe, Quander, Grey, and David Miramontes (the Med DIr) have done so much damage to the former DCFD, uh, sorry FEMS that someone finally had the set to speak out on camera. I believe Ed Smith has been doing a fantastic job but has thus been incapable of unseating this tyrant of a FC. The real question is what is the goal of speaking out? The system is FUBAR. You just can’t find more medics and then continue to have them committed to function in a hostile work environment. The dispatch system, while not truely a Clausson Code System, is a failure with a front loaded paramedic engine concept. QA is used as punishment without regard to patient disposition.

    Honestly, and unless there is a major realignment, ie replacement of leadership from the top down, including the Mayor, Botwin’s speaking out will be for difficult to see a positive outcome. The big picture is this, IMO:

    The regime (as opposed to administration) absolutely knew this fight was coming. I think they twisted the racial dynamic intentionally to further divide the Department to try to break organized labor. Ellerbe himself might not have realized what a puppet he was and his game is now going to backfire. Now he is just plain hurting the population, both black and white, which is what Botwin is trying to make a point about.

  • deezy

    Retaliation. It’s worse when the retaliated becomes the retaileator.
    (are those real words?)

  • Jack MeHoff

    Goooo Jonny go go, Goooo Jonny go go!

  • Anonymous

    I have one thing to say…HOOKMAN: don’t ever say anything bad about Botwin again!! I will put you on charges!


    Good job Botwin…keep pushing his buttons…when the camera is on his justifying everything face…the other face on Ken Ellerbe is fuming over this and mutha fuggin you left nyand right….we’re past the tipping point alright…another example here of why its not always necessary to play the DC Lottery inorder to become a millionaire…keep the pressure on…the Dictatorship and Tyranny will fall soon….

  • ftroop52

    “evil wins when good men do nothing”, this man is good and doing the right thing. will it cost him ?, probaly.start this guy a fund and i got the first $20.00, lunch is on me.

    • Anonymous



    Yes Captain…I hear and obey all your a way kinda jealous of Botwin…I wish It was me pushing the button for and close seems pretty easy..but I’m not really good when it comes to button pushing…someway or somehow, I’d probably do something very bad to the button and ill be put in the corner bye the tyrant leader himself…

    Had a brief conversation the otherday about the King and his disturbing personalities…though he’s never been diagnosed with psychosis, I’d be willing to bet that if every female who ever came in contact with the King, sat down with a psychiatrist and were interviewed, I’d say a diagnosis would be forthecoming….

    the most disturbing part of all of this…is the person who’s constantly being portrayed in a negative way, knows exactly what he’s doing and the way he’s carrying out his agenda…the justifications for his agenda are beyond sad and only show what a pathetic human being he truly is…There will be a price to pay for this…

    In the meantime…keep affecting peoples livelihoods with your demotions, putting people on day work…the people who you affect and call you out on your blatant and retaliatory ways will get the last laugh…..

    One more footnote and advice to those who’ve been affected by this disturbing and pathetic individual….when you bring a civil suit for Violations of the DC Whistleblowers Act to Wrongful Termination….DON’T and I REPEAT DON’T sue the DC GOVERNMENT and name Ellerbe and his followers as Co-Defendants…bring civil action against the individual in their official capicity….GO AFTER THEIR BANK ACCOUNT…maybe oneday they’ll get the message…imagine having to sign over your house, car etc., to pay your legal fees and the plaintiffs legal fees on top of the compensenory and punitive damages you’ve suffered….ONLY because you were a vindictive and retaliatory SCUMBAG!!!!

    • RJ in florida

      LRB still has a condo n sarasota

  • livindadream

    I love the irony and symbolism of LRB assigning Botwin to push his buttons and Botwin’s enthusiasm to push his buttons. Classic!

  • DC FireCapt

    Jon, I am impressed with your ability to stay focused and your determination. I hope you consider running for city council some day, no joke. Common sense and big balls is all rarity. You have my support for this worth while cause.

  • yeah yeah

    Like there is no h in his spelling of Jon. There also is no I in his spelling of team. You my friend think you’re special but you’re just another version of Alvarado and
    see what it got him. Self promotion through the communist channel fox 5. Why do we need a union when we have smarmy members who freelance there opinions. Go away Botwin you are a P—y along with your fake don’t play the race card racist friends.

    • triumph

      There has been strong correlation between the media downfall of Ken “the Crony” Ellerbe, and the down trending in validity of his troll supporters rhetoric on this forum. Daylight is at the end of the tunnel.

    • Anonymous

      Alverado – decorated fireman who will win his lawsuit. He is a hero.

      At the end of the day, the Constitution of the US and the 1st Ammendment will trump a Kangaroo Court of a Trial Board our system of discipline has become.

      Fox 5 is communist? Huh? Yeah yeah, Fox is a commy leftist network.

      Read this sentence by yeah yeah:

    • Robert Alvarado

      Yeah Yeah. I am cool with you calling me out. You are entitled to your opinion, but if you are going to call someone out by name, be man enough to use yours. Don’t call a man a p—y who has to courage to stand up for what he feels is right. Especially don’t call a man a p—y when you are going to hide behind a screen name. Calling a man a racist is another strong allegation. Your are entitled to feel that way. Bottom line is you can call anyone anything you want. If you are going to call anyone out by mane though, just be man enough to own it like Jon and I have done.

      Patiently waiting for you to man up,


      • yeah yeah

        I using my hood like everyone in this forum. But don’t get it confused I will gladly approach you or Botwin in person and express myself. Its cowardly to call one person to reveal them self because of there opinon and not call all your so called supporters who hide behind there screen names everyday. Lets all come out together! Bet that wouldn’t happen. So tell your friends to use there names and when they start I will use mines. There would be no post if any of these cancerous complaining racist came from under there hoods (screen names).

        • Anonymous

          This is a prime example of the DC Education system. Grammer and composition on a 5th Grade level.

          • yeah yeah

            I guess the truth hurts

  • Amb-30 member

    Do I see hair on his face..A couple of weeks ago u were saying something about the other members..jon is a fool , u are going against the city with unlimited MONEY

  • David S.

    Why cant the federal government get involved with this organization.The tax paying citizens do not deserve this and the WHOLE DCFD/EMS does not deserve to be treated like a bunch of punching bags. Someone needs to get rid of the higher ups they all suck.FF Botwin stay strong you are an awsome firefighter/pm.

  • WTFwtfWTF

    How about some facts instead of the endless BS? What is the FD budget? What is the CPR save rate? What is average turnout time? What is average dispatch time? What is average travel time? How many fires are held to room of origin? How many trauma centers are there? How often are disaster drills held? etc

  • RJ in florida

    It takes a brave man to do what he did and while I see its not for personal fame r gain, I do see that this shaping up to be a “contempt of chief” issue and I hope the brothers and sisters of the DCFD stand behind him because I can see more trumped up charges coming his way and the dept firing him

  • Watchdogdc

    The path that Botwin will go down will be long and winding. The sad part of it all is none of these idiots will be here when the city has to write the check to compensate them for damages caused by this administration. The service as a whole will take years to fix due to the mismanagement of this administration. All three of the Assistant Chief positions are filled by cowards this includes the Services, Operations, and Medical Director position. None of them have the balls to stand up to this guy when thy know he is wrong. They have proven they are not here for the betterment of he public the serve but for there own self serving mission. The other headline that has been brought to light is the possible demotion of the Deputy Chief assigned to the apparatus division for some petty claim of failure to do his job. Ellerbe’s only problem with that Deputy Chief is he make Ellerbe look more like the true idiot he is by getting the job done anywhere he has assigned him. Ellerbe is feeling a little uneasy because people in high places are noticing that there is someone in the organization who could immediately replace his sorry butt. From the beginning Ellerbe has tried to blame everything on the members of the department starting from New Years Eve staffing situation that he personally instructed the agencies staffing officer to cease with the filling of positions that day. It should also be noted that if the IG’S Office went and looked at the staffing records in telestaff they would fine that there have been numerous days since New Years that have had over 100 people off on some type of leave. The latest death can again be contributed to the lack of management by this administration. This is death number 3 that has been suffered due to staffing issues that are management manufactured. If these idiots are allowed to continue there will without a doubt be more deaths to follow. The office of Mr.Machen should now be starting an investigation into the actions of the top administrators that oversee public safety followed by charges as contributors to the death of 3 people while they ineffectively managed the Fire and EMS Department. Somewhere in the District of Columbia Government there has to be a job description detailing the responsibility of the Fire Chief. I am quite sure in that document it would refer to being responsible for the effective management and ensuring the agency is ready to respond in an effective manner. There is clear documented written and video evidence that Chief Ellerbe is failing at this with fling colors. It’s time for the Feds to come in and place a public safety control board in place to over see the daily operations of the Fire and Police Department since both agency Directors seem to be running rouge with no end insight. I am also curious as to the investigation into the assault by Ellerbe on one of his employees. I would be willing to bet Mayor Vinnie and his little buddy the Deputy Mayor have already had some closed door meetings with Chief Lanier and the investigating officer as to what they expect the outcome of that investigation to be.

  • Mobella

    I think it would make more sense to start writing our congressional reps (with the exception of norton). Perhaps we start suggesting a congressional oversight of FEMS?I read DC did not get the Olympics bcs of this mess right now and EMS failures with his Nazi- esq firechief.

    • triumph

      Norton herself is a tax cheat bailed out by the same guy that funded Gray’s shadow campaign-Jeff Thompson. DC really is one step away from control board. One of the main focuses of the IG investigation is staffing, or lack thereof, and Ellerbe/ Gray’s refusal to hire from the 2008 Recruit list- A violation of the DC Human Rights Act of 1977. This will be over soon.

      • Anonymous

        Jeff Thompson has contributed to the campaigns of numerous politicians…..both on the local and nation level.

        • smh

          Most of the ones with integrity have returned it. Typical ______ making excuses for DC corruption.

          • Anonymous

            Do yuo have proof?

    • Anonymous

      “I read DC did not get the Olympics bcs of this mess right now and EMS failures with his Nazi- esq firechief”.

      You sir are full of it.

  • 1dctaxpayer

    I agree we should take this whole mess to the hill, and lobby for removal of this idiot.

    We should also organize a legal protest in front of the Wilson building demanding action from city council. The media is jumping at any chance to further expose Ellerbe, hell they all see how dysfunctional this tyrant is.

    The council may not be able to remove him, but they can refuse to vote on any legislation until the Mayor addresses the situation.

    • Anonymous

      One minute you want congress out D.C.’s affairs, then the next you want them in. Can’t have it both ways.

      Besides…..they can’t even get their stuff together!!!

  • uncomfortable truth

    @pharcyde, miller, x-ray:

    I want to start a real, candid convo with Ellerbe and Gray supporters, and his detractors alike. Please no hate/racism/Rubin did this/ Few did that/ childish responses. Just honest dialogue.

    Here it is:

    Why is it that you will never hear DC politicians try to push an all city resident staffing/hiring agenda for the POLICE DEPT OR SCHOOL SYSTEM.?

    In the past, public outcry against this type of agenda has kept it from ever leaving the political drawing board. All stakeholders: residents, vistors, local politicians, the business community, parents,rich and poor: EVERYONE IN THE CITY IS OPPOSED TO THIS APPROACH TO STAFFING THE POLICE DEPT/ SCHOOL SYSTEM?

    With that being said my question is why is this an acceptable way to staff the FIRE DEPARTMENT?

  • Anonymous

    “Why is it that you will never hear DC politicians try to push an all city resident staffing/hiring agenda for the POLICE DEPT OR SCHOOL SYSTEM”.?

    The city is trying to get out of the school business…..thus the push for charter schools.

  • Slim Shady

    Everyone keeps saying,”this will be over soon”. I’ve been hearing that for almost three years now. LRB isn’t going anywhere. We are all stuck with the tyrant until January of 2015 and who knows who we’ll get after that.??