D.C. and David Rosenbaum

Monday, January 16, 2006

GOOD WORK BY D.C. police has resulted in the arrest of two suspects in the Jan. 6 robbery and slaying of retired New York Times journalist David E. Rosenbaum. The rest of the news is not at all gratifying.

Adrian H. Thompson, chief of the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, said that he is satisfied that "appropriate measures were taken" and that EMS providers "met all standards of care" in responding to Mr. Rosenbaum's injury on a Northwest street. At this stage Mr. Thompson can speak only for himself. Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), chairman of the D.C. Council's Judiciary Committee, which oversees fire and emergency services, has a decidedly less confident view. We share Mr. Mendelson's reservations.

In a Jan. 11 letter to Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), Mr. Mendelson called for an independent review of the emergency medical response, and with good reason. He acknowl-

edged that preliminary reports indicated no apparent signs of major trauma to Mr. Rosenbaum, who did not appear to have been assaulted or fatally injured. "Nevertheless," wrote Mr. Mendelson, "the EMS medical assessment was inaccurate." The response, he suggested, reflects on the quality of the department's emergency medical services, including the availability of transports and the decision on where to take a victim. "How this incident is evaluated, and the conclusions made, may implicate whether there is liability to the District," he wrote, noting that Howard University Hospital's performance also is in question. "The victim's injuries were misunderstood at admittance, and reportedly there were delays in medical treatment," he wrote.

For our part, we also would like to know -- and have already formally asked Fire and EMS to answer:

· Why was Mr. Rosenbaum taken 4 1/2 miles to Howard when Sibley Memorial Hospital and Georgetown University Hospital were closer?

· How well did emergency medical technicians at the scene examine Mr. Rosenbaum? Chief Thompson reported that his workers performed "a thorough detailed assessment which consisted of a complete head-to-toe front and back survey of the patient for any signs of trauma" and found "no indication that the patient's condition should be upgraded for advanced life support." Yet, the D.C. medical examiner determined that Mr. Rosenbaum died from a severe head injury and blows to his body and limbs.

· What was the exact exchange between the 911 dispatcher and Fire and EMS that led to the conclusion that an adult male in medical distress did not need an acute life support unit? Two acute life support ambulance units were a few blocks away, but a basic life support ambulance was dispatched from Providence Hospital five miles away -- a drive that took 22 minutes.

· Why was Mr. Rosenbaum left on a stretcher in a hallway at the hospital and not evaluated or examined for at least an hour, until he began vomiting? Reportedly it was only then that authorities realized that Mr. Rosenbaum had suffered a massive head injury -- a discovery made nearly two hours after fire units were first dispatched to the street where he was found.

A redacted report released by Fire and

EMS on Friday night does not answer these questions.

Chief Thompson may be satisfied with his department's performance. Howard University may feel that way, too. The public, however, needs convincing. Nothing less than an independent review with full and complete disclosure of results will satisfy the public interest.

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