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Health department says no discipline after intubation of dead man, but examines policy

Bellingham’s mayor is confident that its emergency services can keep the public’s trust

The Bellingham Fire Department disclosed that a ranking officer resigned and another retired in the wake of “serious misconduct”. The July incident involved a deceased patient’s body being used for an unauthorized training exercise.
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The Bellingham Fire Department disclosed that a ranking officer resigned and another retired in the wake of “serious misconduct”. The July incident involved a deceased patient’s body being used for an unauthorized training exercise.

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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.

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None of the Bellingham Fire Department employees involved in last summer’s intubation of a deceased man will be disciplined by the Washington State Department of Health, but the department said it will examine its policies and consider changes.

“We closed the cases without disciplinary action because there was no violation determined,” DOH spokesperson Jessica Baggett told The Bellingham Herald.

Baggett went on to say that though the department does not have any policies against what occurred July 31, 2018, the DOH could change policies to address similar incidents in the future.

“The department does not condone the alleged activities. However, current policies and rules do not specifically address this type of behavior,” Baggett told The Herald. “The department is conducting rule-making and will clarify the appropriate environment and practice principles for training requirements related to human intubation.”

As previously reported in The Herald, 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 on July 31. 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.

The DOH announced in October that it was actively investigating nine Bellingham Fire employees for their roles in the incident. Baggett said all nine have been notified that the department has closed the investigations.

As a result of the incident, 12 fire department employees were disciplined by the fire department for their actions, and in October the department clarified its policies to ban training on recently deceased patients.

Family members of the deceased man who was intubated filed three claims for damages seeking more than $15.5 million from the city of Bellingham. Two of those were settled for $150,000 in January.

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.
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