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Question of the day: You are waiting for the funeral home to pick up the body of a recently deceased person at your firehouse. Do you leave that body alone or do you gather the crew around to practice medical procedures on the body?
I have a feeling this question could be on the next promotional exam for the Bellingham (WA) Fire Department.
One Bellingham Fire Department veteran officer retired and another resigned after an investigation revealed a deceased patient in July was taken to Fire Station 1 to await pick up from a funeral home and several department members, including a division chief and EMS captains, practiced multiple intubations on the body, according to information provided by City of Bellingham Communications Director Vanessa Blackburn.
Bellingham Fire personnel did not seek nor did they receive permission to perform the procedure from the deceased’s family, Blackburn said, and direction was only provided by the chief officer present.
“That direction was inappropriate and inconsistent with our expectations of chief officers,” Blackburn said.
Chief Bill Newbold statement:
In early August I first learned of an incident at Bellingham Fire Department Station 1 during which department personnel successively performed a medical procedure, endotracheal intubation, on a deceased person. This incident was neither normal nor acceptable. The chief officer directing this activity was immediately placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of a complete and thorough investigation. The investigation confirmed to me that the actions of the personnel involved were unacceptable and constitute serious misconduct. I am deeply disappointed by what occurred here. These actions stand to violate the trust between our department and the community we serve, which we have earned through over a century of exemplary service. Going forward, the firefighters, paramedics and staff of the Bellingham Fire Department will continue to work hard in service to our community. Our professional, well-trained personnel constantly endeavor to be responsible stewards of the public’s trust, and we are working to repair any breech of this trust through review of appropriate policies and procedures and to ensure all our employees’ actions are in alignment with our mission.
Mayor Kelli Linville statement:
I was very disturbed when I found out about the incident and appreciate that Fire Chief Bill Newbold responded swiftly to the allegations of misconduct by our personnel. We took it very seriously, taking the steps to make sure that the people who were responsible have been held accountable. What happened was wrong and I want to assure the community that it won’t happen again. I am confident that Chief Newbold will take the appropriate measures to continue providing our community the high level of Fire and EMS service you expect.