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Administration & Leadership, EMS, Patient Care, Politics

Of Blankets and Discipline

A very eye catching story has been circulating for a few days involving everyone’s favorite EMS system to hate, Detroit and a Paramedic who claims to have been reprimanded for giving a blanket to a person who was cold after a fire.

I was waiting to comment until the Detroit EMS Administration commented.  Let’s just say I’m glad I wasn’t holding my breath.

As a Quality Manager I see this differently than most line medics might.  On the surface a medic was doing the right thing giving a blanket to a cold person.  It’s what we do most: Make bad days better.  We all know most of the attaboy letters don’t involve medicine but instead note demeanor and comfort measures.

Seems like a non starter.

However, it seems there were some policies in place, whether you agree with them or not, regarding dispensing agency property.

Take a deep breath…I’m getting to my point.

Most Vice Principles have a list of trouble makers who are just under the disciplinary surface and are watching them like a hawk waiting for a reason, any reason, to bust them on a black and white policy violation.

I don’t know enough of the facts to pass a decision regarding the blanket, but I can tell you that if this was brought to my desk I’d ask how we solved all the other problems to be able to spend time on this.  If there had been a decision to reprimand based on the Rules and Regulations, in my experience, there is more going on than meets the eye.

I wander the halls looking for my borderline crews to screw up on something so I can have a chat with them, sure, but more often I’m wandering looking for any chance to talk with them about how things are going.

This could have been a policy enforcement or the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Let’s just hope the camel doesn’t need a blanket.

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  1. Hamid October 16, 2012 2:25 pm

    Please tell me you’re not an advocating Selective Enforcement.

    • Hamid October 16, 2012 2:26 pm

      *advocate of

  2. Too Old To Work October 16, 2012 6:03 pm

    Maybe it’s because Detroit doesn’t have a pot to piss in that they have such a policy. OTOH, my system currently
    has the opposite system. If I saw someone standing outside in the cold and didn’t give them a blanket, I’d expect to get my ass kicked (figuratively) by a supervisor.

    I don’t care what this medics previous disciplinary record was, he did the humane thing. Anyone looking to bust his nuts because of such an infraction doesn’t deserve to supervisor adults. Or children for that matter.

  3. John October 16, 2012 7:17 pm


    This is Detroit, where the Commissioner lays of 150 firefighters and closes 30 fire companies, while hiring extra deputy commissioners and office staff. In Detroit, the commissioner hired after retiring from LA talks about getting a helicopter while there are no rigs or turnout gear. In Detroit, the deputy commissioner for EMS was fired when he struck a reporter on camera. In Detroit, medics who speak to reporters about the ambulance break downs and failures of the system get brought up on charges for wearing the wrong shirt on their 20th run of the day. In Detroit, ambulances leave patients and crews stranded daily, and every firefighter and cop gets a 10% pay cut off the lowest wage in the state, but the mayor still has 22 policemen in his security detail.

    Detroit EMS is the epitome of failed leadership and mismanagement. Knowing all of this, I am more likely to believe the problem lies at the top than the bottom of the rank structure.

    • Happy Medic October 17, 2012 8:20 am

      John, I don’t claim where the problem is, just commenting on how trivial the charge seems. As more facts begin to surface and Statter911 reports the actual charge was under Department Property, it is clear this is a problem with the difference between enforcing the rules and building the system.
      I just hope someone can get in there and make things happen. However, we all have monetary restraints to move forward, so the trick is making changes that SAVE money. Each system is different, but we all have to try to help.

  4. mpatk October 17, 2012 6:27 am

    Dave Statter said it pretty well: “defending the indefensible”. The reason that the incident is so outrageous, and that the story blew up so badly, is because the EMS chief DEFENDED the reasoning that it is proper to punish an employee for giving a blanket to a displaced fire victim.

    Well, that and the fact that the disciplinary paperwork bluntly states he is being disciplined for giving away the blanket (and not improper “inventory accounting” as the city claimed a week later).

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