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Hillsborough suspends four paramedics in treatment of stroke victim, 30, who later died

Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill says at a Monday news conference that four fire-rescue employees failed to do their jobs, leading to the death of a woman who had apparently suffered a stroke. [TAILYR IRVINE | Times]
Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill says at a Monday news conference that four fire-rescue employees failed to do their jobs, leading to the death of a woman who had apparently suffered a stroke. [TAILYR IRVINE | Times]
A Hillsborough County Fire Rescue fire engine is pictured at the scene of a motor vehicle accident in Brandon. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
Monday 23 July 2018 21.21

TAMPA — Hillsborough County has suspended four fire-rescue paramedics for failing to transport or even check vital signs for a 30-year-old woman who showed symptoms of a stroke a few days after she underwent a Caesarian section.

The woman’s mother ended up driving her to Brandon Regional Hospital, but it was too late. Crystle Galloway was so sick she was flown by helicopter across town to Tampa General Hospital, where she later died.

The four paramedics were placed on administrative leave with pay Friday in connection with the rescue call about 3 a.m. on July 4, Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill said Monday. He said Hillsborough County Fire Rescue failed to provide good care to the woman.

"I deeply regret that this has happened and clearly this is unacceptable," Merrill said.

On a gofundme page, Galloway’s mother, Nicole Benhamou, said her daughter left behind two children, including a 5-day-old baby.

"I really feel like the officers and the EMS fire rescue department failed to help me," she wrote. "Because of them and their negligence, my daughter died."

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The incident came to the attention of the county’s Human Resources Department on July 11.

The four workers responded to a request to help a woman who had passed out, had a swollen lip and was drooling, according to information provided to them by dispatchers. The call was given coding that should have alerted the paramedics that the woman was suffering a possible stroke.

On their arrival, they were told she appeared to be suffering from a stroke and "had a C-section the other day."

Two paramedic units responded to the call, placed by Benhamou. Paramedics helped carry Galloway down from the third floor of her residence but did not examine her, Merrill said.

They later told county officials that Sheriff’s Office deputies who were already on the scene told them that Benhamou wanted to drive the woman to the hospital.

But they failed to get the mother or Galloway to sign an informed consent form as required. What’s more, in recording the call on their logging system, the paramedics indicated the patient could not be found.

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Merrill called this a falsification of records.

"I cannot trust these individuals to work under my medical license," said Michael Lozano, Fire Rescue medical director, in a statement read by Merrill. "I feel they do not meet the minimum standards set by myself and the department."

The four suspended employees are Lt. John "Mike" Morris, 36, who has worked with the department six years; Fire Medic Justin Sweeney, 36, a five-year department employee; Fire Medic Andrew J. Martin, 28, a five-year department employee; and acting Lt. Cortney Barton, 38, a nine-year department employee.

Martin declined to comment. None of the other paramedics could be reached for comment.

A disciplinary hearing is tentatively scheduled for July 31.

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