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Bellingham Fire intubations
The Bellingham Herald broke the news that the body of a patient who died on the way to the hospital was used for intubation practice by 11 Bellingham Fire employees. Here are the stories about what happened.
The city of Bellingham has settled $150,000 in claims for damages filed by two family members of the deceased man Bellingham Fire Department employees practiced performing endotracheal intubations on in late July, according to Bellingham City Council meeting minutes.
On July 31, 11 fire department employees, including two office workers, admitted to performing “tube checks” on the body of Bradley Ginn Sr. while he was on the floor of Station 1. His body was waiting to be picked up to be taken to a funeral home.
A report by Seattle attorney Sarah I. Hale revealed that “tube checks” were an accepted practice paramedics used to meet certification requirements. After patients died, paramedics took out breathing tubes that were placed as life-saving measures and then quickly re-inserted them to help paramedics practice the procedure.
Bradley Ginn Jr., Bradley Ginn Sr.’s son, filed a claim Oct. 16 seeking $200,000. In the claim, Ginn Jr.’s lawyer called the conduct of fire department employees “reprehensible” and says the intubations took place during a time when family members were trying to locate Ginn Sr.’s body. They also say Ginn Sr. had a do-not-resuscitate directive, which prohibited the use of invasive procedures such as intubations, according to records with the City Attorney’s office.
City Council members agreed to settle the claim for $75,000 at their Monday night meeting. The motion was carried 7-0, the minutes state.
In addition to monetary compensation, Ginn Jr. asked the city to implement a written policy that prohibits similar conduct in the future. In early October, Bellingham Fire Chief Bill Newbold said the tube checking practice was no longer allowed.
Supervising physician Emily Junck issued a directive to all medical personnel on Oct. 3 stating that “Patient care and procedures should only be provided with the goal of patient resuscitation. After a patient has been pronounced as deceased, no further procedures should be provided without consent of next of kin or (durable power of attorney),” according to information previously provided by city communications director Vanessa Blackburn.
Blackburn said Junck, EMS Division Chief Scott Rykman and Assistant Chief Jay Comfort completed a policy that outlines what happens when a patient dies in an ambulance. The policy is being reviewed for approval and has been communicated to Bellingham Fire employees, Blackburn said.
Newbold, who has been chief for five years and with the department since 2013, is planning to retire in March.
The city also settled for $75,000 with Aurieona Ginn, Ginn Sr.’s daughter. She had filed a claim Oct. 9 seeking $350,000.
Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville signed both settlement agreements earlier this week, according to Blackburn. Linville declined to comment Friday on the settlements.
Ginn Sr.’s wife, Jai Ginn, filed a claim Oct. 4 seeking $15 million, saying she has suffered physical and mental pain, and disability resulting in economic and non-economic damages. She also made claims for the unauthorized invasion and desecration of a dead body without permission and possible wrongful death. Her claim is still pending.
Twelve Bellingham Fire Department employees were disciplined for their actions taken on July 31 on Ginn Sr.’s body.
The state Department of Health is also investigating nine members of the department for their roles in the July 31 incident. Although 11 employees admitted to intubating Ginn Sr., only nine were credentialed health care providers. A state health department spokesperson said the investigation could take up to 170 days.
Ginn Sr.’s family and Newbold did not respond to requests for comment.