An investigation is underway into the conduct of two Southern California paramedics after they refused to enter a post-acute-care facility last month to assist a man in cardiac arrest, citing an unspecified COVID-19 law.
The bizarre incident took place on Thursday, Nov. 11, when two Rialto Fire responders answered a 911 call from the Rialto Post Acute Care Center at around 7:50 p.m. In police body camera footage obtained by FOX Los Angeles, the two medics, whose names have not yet been revealed, were spotted standing by the open door of the center wearing masks but refusing to enter.
As part of the department’s policy, the first 30 seconds of the footage were muted. Still, in the unnamed officer’s police report, the paramedics were reportedly there for an unrelated patient and said apparently the facility was being “problematic.”
“After a few moments, an unknown employee of the location yelled out to fire personnel, ‘Please come help, he’s having a cardiac arrest,'” the report stated. “Fire personnel responded by insisting the patient had to be brought outside the facility before they could provide any sort of treatment … due to an unspecified COVID-19 law.”
Soon afterward, the officer walks in himself and greets the employee, informing them that the paramedics “are not going to come in.” He added, “They’re saying it’s a state law that they cannot come in.”
Nurses were already attempting life-saving procedures inside the room, including CPR on the patient, who later was identified as 56-year-old Joseph Angulo. The bed he was in did not have wheels on it. So, with the nurse still on top of Angulo, the officer got behind the bed and steered the bed down the hallways with the help of hospital personnel.
Once they got through the door, the two paramedics took over the CPR. Angulo was transported to a local hospital, but he did not survive.
Authorities were baffled by the incident. “It is difficult to watch the tape,” said Rialto Mayor Pro Tem Ed Scott, who was made aware of the incident by a staff member at the center and reported it to the City Attorney. “It is particularly difficult.”
In a statement to the news station, The San Bernardino County Chapter of the Emergency Medical Services Authority said:
“Upon acceptance of a call assignment, California paramedics cannot refuse service (i.e., assessment, treatment, transport) unless directed by law enforcement or if the scene is unsafe. Local protocols may change instructions for the conditions to assess, treat, and/or transport.”
A memo from the San Bernardino County Fire Chiefs’ Association released in April 2020 stated, “Personnel responding to long-term care facilities …. Should consider the following to minimize any potential risk for exposure and that all dispatch centers will be requesting the facilities to move patients to the door or outside the location.”
However, the memo also noted that “If patient cannot be transferred to exit for or outside prior to arrival, one member of Fire/EMS personnel should initially interact with the patient” and goes on to explain the type of personal protective gear that is advisable.
The paramedics have been placed on leave pending a third-party investigation.
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