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Negligence Alleged in Philadelphia Deaths

April 12, 2002|From Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — Fire department officials are reviewing their procedures after allegations that paramedics contributed to two deaths in three weeks by failing to immediately transport patients to hospitals.

In the most recent case, paramedics on Monday left a 64-year-old cancer patient, Ethel Thornton, for dead in her apartment. Two hours later, morgue workers arrived and found her with a faint pulse. She later died at a hospital.

The two paramedics have been put on administrative duty pending an investigation, Executive Fire Chief William Brightcliffe said Wednesday.

In the earlier case, a 1-year-old boy who was seriously ill with a cold and fever died hours after paramedics failed to transport him. The parents of Marquis Dunson say paramedics told them it would be cheaper if they drove Marquis to a clinic, which they did.

They waited at the clinic for more than an hour before a doctor saw the baby and sent him to a hospital, where he died 23 minutes later.

Fire department officials reviewing the two deaths said they will consider a broader look at their policies if warranted.

Two paramedics have been suspended for 30 days with intent to dismiss as a result of the Dunson case.

Vincente Ortiz, 27, and Joanne Prezeworski, 24, deny allegations that they suggested that Marquis' parents could save $200 by taking the baby to get medical care themselves, according to Tom O'Drain, president of Firefighters Local 22. They also insist that they offered three times to transport the child to a hospital, he said.

He said he does not know if the paramedics took the baby's vital signs.

This is not the first time critics have charged that a delay by city emergency workers was partly to blame in a death.

Last year, a city dispatcher was sentenced to one to two years in prison for diverting 911 calls to a private ambulance company where she worked part time. A lawsuit filed against the city alleges that her actions led to a delay that contributed to the death of a man.

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