Report Faults Response to Assault

By Clarence Williams and Allan Lengel
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, June 16, 2006

A report by the D.C. inspector general's office, to be released today, sharply rebukes the city's fire and emergency medical services department, the police and Howard University Hospital for failing to respond properly after the fatal assault on New York Times reporter David E. Rosenbaum.

"Multiple failures during a single evening by the District [agencies] and Howard employees . . . suggest an impaired work ethic that must be addressed before it becomes pervasive," says a summary of the report that was obtained last night.

The report recommends changes in policies and procedures, including "promptly" reassigning, retraining or removing poorly performing emergency medical workers.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), who, along with city administrator Robert C. Bobb, requested the inspector general's investigation, called the report "comprehensive and unflinching."

"I . . . agree that we need to make several significant reforms if we are to prevent a reoccurrence of the mistakes that marked that evening," Williams said in a statement. He said some changes have been implemented.

Rosenbaum, 63, a reporter and editor, was beaten on the head with a pipe and robbed while taking a walk in the 3800 block of Gramercy Street NW on Jan. 6. He died two days later at Howard University Hospital from severe head injuries.

Because Rosenbaum was vomiting and smelled of alcohol when emergency workers responded to a neighbor's 911 call, the EMTs presumed he was intoxicated and classified him "as a low priority," the report said.

"Emergency responders' approach to Mr. Rosenbaum's perceived intoxication resulted in minimal intervention by both medical and law enforcement personnel," the report says, adding that "they failed to properly analyze and treat Mr. Rosenbaum's symptoms according to accepted prehospital care standards."

In addition, an ambulance, coming from Providence Hospital in Northeast Washington, did not take a direct route to Gramercy. Furthermore, for "personal reasons," the emergency medical technicians opted to transport Rosenbaum to Howard rather than the closest facility, Sibley Memorial Hospital.

"Failure to follow protocols, policies and procedures affected care of the patient and the efficiency with which the EMTs completed the call," the report says.

Once at the hospital, workers there failed to properly assess Rosenbaum's condition and "failed to communicate critical medical information to each other, thereby delaying necessary medical intervention," the report says.

Hospital officials could not be reached for comment last night.

The report also criticizes police for failing to secure the assault scene, collect evidence and interview potential witnesses.

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), head of the council committee that oversees the police and fire departments, called the report "damning" and said "there is every indication that was not an isolated incident." He said it will take more than "rolling a head or two" to correct the problem but said some people should be fired.

Council member Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3) said, "It is critical that the government's response makes certain that these mistakes are not repeated."

Alan Etter, spokesman for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Services Department, said that Fire Chief Adrian Thompson "is looking over [the report] and continues to look at the suggestions. We've already incorporated many of the items that were listed in the report."

New measures instituted since Rosenbaum's death include requirements that emergency medical workers must transport patients to the nearest hospital and that patient-care reports must be written by first responders on the scene so better records exist when a patient arrives at the hospital.

Marcus Rosenbaum, the victim's brother, declined to comment.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company