Stephen Sawyer of Ellenville, New York was a volunteer EMT and squad leader with the Ellenville First Aid and Rescue Squad until very recently. The 20-year-old man was alone at the squad’s Webster Street headquarters on December 11th when he answered a call about a 4-year-old boy experiencing seizures. A paramedic was called and arrived at the child’s location in an SUV, then called in for an ambulance. Sawyer contacted the local Kerhonkson Accord First Aid Squad, but they were occupied on another call. The EMT spent the next 15 minutes calling for other ambulances but was unsuccessful.
Sawyer had experience with driving ambulances in his job with Mobile Life Support Services. Feeling that important time was ticking away, Sawyer decided to break the squad’s rule, which requires ambulance drivers be 21-years of age or older, and take the boy, his mother and the paramedic to the Ellenville Regional Hospital. Sawyer told the Times Herald-Record, "I wouldn't have been able to sleep at night or go to school knowing there's a 4-year-old suffering."
Despite attending to the suffering child, when the squad’s board of directors found out about the incident they voted 4-3 to suspend Sawyer for 60 days, revoke his title on the communications committee and his title of advisor of the Youth Squad. The EMT, who is also a volunteer firefighter and part-time police officer, was stunned by the board’s decision and decided to immediately resign from the squad.
John Gavaris, Ellenville First Aid and Rescue Squad captain and board member, couldn’t comment about specifics with the incident saying that it’s a personnel matter and the suspension came after a “culmination of different incidents,” where Sawyer violated squad rules. Though Gavaris defended the squad’s rules as consistent with the region’s other squads and said that the age minimum for ambulance drivers is there to ensure experience with proper training. The captain added, "It seems very black and white and it's not very black and white.”
While Gavaris says that “There’s no value in this story other than shock value and gossip,” the EMT says he doesn’t mean to bring negative attention to the squad. Sawyer explained, "As far as policy wise, the guys and girls on the board need to rethink their policies for the good of the community…People shouldn't have to suffer over policy."
More info: Times Herald-Record/recordonline.com