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Poor care leads to sanctions for medic

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GREENFIELD — A local paramedic who failed to send an overdose patient to the hospital has been suspended and ordered to take remediation classes, personnel records state.

Earlier this month, the Greenfield Board of Works and Public Safety approved a “last-chance employment agreement” for Brandon Harris, 30, of Fishers, whose employment history is dotted with verbal and written reprimands for poor patient care and incomplete reports.

Harris has been a paramedic at the Greenfield Fire Department for almost three years.

The employment agreement, approved by the board at its Sept. 11 meeting, orders Harris to take part in a remediation program, followed by an unpaid seven-day suspension. The suspension ends next week.

The seven-day suspension is equivalent to 21 regular work days, or 168 hours, because medics work 24-hour shifts at the fire department.

The sanction stems from a medical run the night of Aug. 24, when, according to a 23-page report in Harris’ personnel file, the medic’s mishandling of a call “could have resulted in major liability for the department.”

Robbery suspect Roland Quilliam had just been found in the trunk of his getaway car, along with narcotics stolen from CVS Pharmacy in Greenfield, according to court documents.

By at least one sheriff’s deputy’s account, Quilliam, 22, had taken three-quarters of a bulk bottle of prescription pain pills stolen from the pharmacy.

Harris, however, recorded only that the patient had taken an “unknown amount of pills,” and, after declaring Quilliam showed no “deficits associated with overdose,” cleared him to be taken to the Hancock County Jail without further medical treatment.

Witnesses said Harris took Quilliam’s pulse but did no further medical assessment, including recording the patient’s medical history. He did not check Quilliam’s blood pressure and respiratory function or ask how long it had been since Quilliam ingested the pills to determine whether he would be showing symptoms of overdose yet.

When Quilliam arrived at Hancock County Jail, a staff member recommended he be taken to the hospital for a more thorough evaluation.

There, emergency room staff found Quilliam had swallowed at least 20 tablets totaling 100 milligrams of the narcotic pain reliever oxycodone.

After reviewing Harris’ run sheet, which details the patient’s information and initial treatment by medics, EMS Medical Director Cindy Spier criticized Harris’ handling of the case.

In a letter to Fire Chief James Roberts, Spier, who treated Quilliam, called the patient’s case “entirely mismanaged” by Harris, who failed to note “a potentially lethal overdose that requires immediate medical attention.”

The letter does not detail Quilliam’s treatment once he reached the hospital.

He was treated and then booked into the jail just before 2 a.m. that morning, jail logs state. Harris evaluated Quilliam around midnight, records state.

The report in Harris’ personnel file shows Harris violated 22 department policies and procedures based on his handling of Quilliam’s treatment.

Those violations include conduct unbecoming and negligence.

The conduct unbecoming relates to several witnesses’ statements that Harris berated and cursed at the patient while demanding to know how much medication he had taken. Witnesses also stated Harris apologized to Quilliam after becoming angry.

The personnel report contains an interview with Harris, who declined to comment for this story.

In the interview, Harris apologized for his behavior but stood by his medical assessment, which he said “didn’t raise the red flag that this guy needed to be seen by a doctor to get his stomach pumped.”

Harris said the patient was responsive and acting normally.

“If we pulled up on the run, and he wasn’t with the police, I wouldn’t have looked at him and said, ‘Oh, my God, this guy’s got to go to the hospital,’” Harris is recorded as saying. “Nothing about him was abnormal except for the fact he was on the ground, handcuffed, at midnight.”

The report notes Harris was just finishing up a six-month paramedic remediation program for two unrelated incidents in which his patient care was called into question.

Harris’ upcoming remediation program is conducted through the St. Vincent Hospital EMS Education Department and consists of a protocol test, practical exam and interview. Harris has agreed to resign if he fails to successfully complete the program, according to records.

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