An ousted senior aide said yesterday that D.C. Fire Chief Adrian H. Thompson is moving too hard and too fast to make emergency medical services a core part of the work done by the city's firefighters.
Fernando Daniels III said he was removed from his job as medical director for the city's Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department Friday after clashes with Thompson.
Fire officials have declined to say why Daniels was replaced. Thompson has been pushing to tie together the work of firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians, giving the firefighters added medical responsibilities. The move has generated much controversy in the department as well as on the D.C. Council, where legislation to create separate fire and medical care departments is pending.
Daniels said yesterday that many firefighters were being sent on medical calls without having the additional training that he felt was essential to their expanding emergency care.
"The directions he was going in," Daniels said of Thompson, "that I didn't want to go in, is where we are now."
Alan Etter, a spokesman for the department, said Thompson deployed the force "confident that they could get the job done."
Etter said that Thompson praised the work of Daniels, who had been medical director since 1999. But in order to move the department to the next level, Etter said, the chief wanted a new person in the job.
Daniels, who is on the staff of Howard University Hospital, was replaced by Clifford H. Turen, an orthopedist at Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. The medical director oversees the quality of medical care, medical protocol and EMS training.
Daniels, 45, said he was not opposed to remaking the department as a single, unified agency. He said he feared that a rush to action would -- and indeed did -- result in dangerous errors.
A number of alleged mistakes had come to his attention and he was in the early stages of investigating the incidents, he said, when he was summoned to Thompson's office Friday and told that the department wanted to go in a different direction. Daniels said he could not discuss the incidents he was reviewing.
WUSA-TV (Channel 9) and the Washington Times first reported about the disagreements over the department's direction. The Times reported yesterday that Daniels's dismissal may be connected to the leaking of confidential records about medical care to the D.C. Council.
Daniels said he was not behind the purported leaks. "Any leaks that happened, I don't know how they happened," Daniels said.
Investigators are attempting to determine whether any records were leaked, Etter said.
Kenneth Lyons, leader of the union that represents civilian paramedics and emergency medical technicians, said that Daniels was investigating at least three recent incidents in which firefighters cross-trained as paramedics as part of Thompson's initiative had made serious medical errors.
Etter said the agency is investigating two alleged incidents of deficient care but had not confirmed that the problems took place.
Such incidents, if true, could be a blow to Thompson, who envisions a department that functions as one agency in which firefighters are trained to respond to fires as well as to medical emergencies.
It is a model that has been adopted in some jurisdictions as governments look to improve emergency medical response and to put firefighters to better use in a world with fewer fires to put out.
But such changes have sometimes been controversial, and the storm surrounding Daniels's departure along with the allegations of bad medical care and leaked records, shows the District is no exception.
While Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) and City Administrator Robert C. Bobb have pushed for creating a unified fire-rescue department, a number of D.C. Council members have proposed going in another direction.
In June, the council's Judiciary Committee held hearings on legislation, proposed by Kevin P. Chavous (D-Ward 7) and Carol Schwartz (R-At Large), that would spin off the emergency medical service into an independent uniformed agency, on a par with the police and fire departments.