Medical director says ‘leadership’ needs to change at DC Fire & EMS Department

Yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon, the January 29 resignation letter of Dr. Jullette Saussy as medical director and assistant chief of the DC Fire & EMS Department went public. The four-page letter, written after just seven-months on the job, paints an extremely grim picture about the efforts of Chief Gregory Dean to make substantive improvements in EMS (read the letter here).

Last night, Dr. Saussy spoke to reporters about her letter. When asked about the most important change needed, Dr. Saussy replied, “Leadership.” Below are those interviews:

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Mark Segraves, Jackie Bensen & Andrea Swalec, WRC-TV/News4:

In an interview with News4, Saussy, who previously ran the ambulance service in New Orleans, compared the stabbing victim’s recent death to the deaths of David Rosenbaum in 2006 and Medric Cecil Mills in 2014. Each man’s death was the subject of an extensive investigation into improper care by first responders. Each time, city officials promised change. 

“Just like Mr. Mills and any other names we could talk about, Mr. Rosenbaum, they deserve to know that their lives are not lost in vain,” Saussy said. 

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She objected to being asked to vouch for the skills of more than 700 medics to the D.C. Department of Health and the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. She wrote that she could not ethically attest to the workers’ skills when she had not been involved in their training or education, and had not met most of the workers. Her attempts to access medics had been blocked, she wrote.

“Not only can I not verify competency, there is no valid indication that they have received any form of real training or continuing education,” she wrote.

D.C. Fire and EMS Chief Gregory Dean thanked Saussy for her service.

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“We are working diligently to find an interim medical director,” he wrote in a letter to fire and EMS crews. “I want to assure you that all of our plans for EMS reform will continue uninterrupted.”

Bowser spokesman Michael Czin said the administration accepted Saussy’s resignation and will reform the fire and EMS department.

“We are committed to improving patient outcomes and delivering the change that residents expect and deserve,” he said.

In the past year, the Bowser administration has held the first entry-level exam in eight years to hire new workers to the department, put a process in place to use third-party EMS providers to support FEMS and ended a 14-year lawsuit between D.C. and the largest FEMS union, Czin said.

Ed Smith, the head of the union that represents rank-and-file EMS workers, said the union offered a number of alternatives to Saussy’s plan for a comprehensive assessment of training and procedures.

Saussy’s last day on the job will be Friday.

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