Fired medic details transport incident
Haycook: 'Everything I did was to protocol, policy and procedures'
A former Barry-Lawrence Ambulance District paramedic says a report filed by a Barry County Sheriff's Deputy is not accurate, and he does not know why he was fired from his position with the district.
Randy Haycook, who was fired on Jan. 9, said he followed all protocols, policies and procedures when he responded to the home of 59-year-old Pedro Martinez on Jan. 1 for an alcohol poisoning call. The deputy's report claims Haycook initially denied transport of Martinez, said Martinez was just drunk and needed to sleep it off, and acted as if he would not help Martinez.
Jeaniettia Pierce, Barry-Lawrence Ambulance District office manager, said she conducted a thorough investigation and got the complete story.
"I took the most appropriate action that I could," she said. "Mr. Haycook was released from employment."
Haycook said after the deputy's report was made public, he was not afforded an opportunity to defend himself before being fired by the ambulance district. Haycook said on Jan. 9, he was called into Pierce's office, along with the ambulance district's board president and another paramedic bearing as a witness.
"They told me my services were no longer needed," he said. "I asked for an explanation and she said if I want to protest, they will put me on the agenda for the [Jan. 13] meeting. I had no previous write-ups or disciplinary actions.
"I asked if the deputy's report was the reason, and no reason was ever given to me. They automatically condemned me before even hearing both sides of the story."
Wes Green, Haycook's partner and ambulance driver on the night of the incident, said he intended to go to the board meeting with Haycook, but was told he was not needed. Green could not remember who had called him.
"I got a phone call and they said there was no need for me to be there," he said.
Haycook said when the board got to its closed session, he was called back to a room with all the board members.
"Before I even sat down, the board president said the decision has not changed and they were firm on it, but they'll give me five minutes to tell my side," he said.
Haycook said, in closing to the board, that the hospital put him and the district in a situation that did not need to happen.
"Not only that, but I followed patient procedure per protocol and per policy," Haycook said. "I did not waver and did not try to go around those. The board failed to do its due diligence and investigate and give me the benefit of the doubt."
A report filed by Barry County Deputy Al Zabala alleged Haycook initially refused to transport Martinez to the hospital.
"Haycook acted as if he was a medical doctor and was not going to treat or help Pedro," Zabala said. "Finally, Haycook said we can take him to Cox Monett ER, get him stable and maybe they can transfer him to Cox North [Hospital in Springfield]."
Haycook said Zabala's account of the incident is not accurate, and he never refused transport for Martinez, nor said he was just drunk and needed to sleep it off.
"The deputy said [Martinez] was sitting in a chair and fell out, but I do not remember seeing a chair in the garage," Haycook said. "It might have been pushed to the side, but I never saw it. And, there was no blood or lumps on Martinez's head from the fall.
"As a medic, it is my obligation to request to obtain medical information and medical history so it can be related to what he is experiencing now. I did exactly what I was supposed to do, and in a way, we do play doctor because we have to get all the information. If we don't, that can be detrimental to the patient."
Haycook said Martinez's wife requested her husband be transported to Cox North Hospital in Springfield, but Haycook said that was not possible because patients have to be screened and cleared before such transport, and it was also unsafe to transport Martinez so far when he was drunk and violent.
"She said they had also been to Cox Monett, so we could go there," he said. "The deputy got in an argument with me and I tried to explain why we could not take him to Cox North.
"The patient was also combative and out of control, and there was no safe way to transport him. I have been assaulted by combative patients in the past, so I did not want to take that risk."
Haycook said paramedics are only allowed to passively restrain patients, and given Martinez's state, he did not feel a transport to Springfield was safe.
"If he is combative, it's a law enforcement issue, and they have to restrain him prior to transport," he said. "Once in the ambulance, we can passively restrain him, and you have to be in a position that's not threatening to you or to him. We cannot handcuff or restrain patients.
"It takes a long time to transfer from Purdy to Springfield, and it just wasn't a safe thing. The wife did not object to us taking him to Monett. We felt by taking him to Monett, they could get him evaluated, under control and more stable for transport to Cox North."
Zabala also said in his report that Haycook used his cell phone to call the hospital, which Haycook said is not uncommon.
"As I got in the ambulance, I used my cell phone to call the hospital, and the reason I used my cell phone was because some information may not be appropriate to say over the radio, like this patient's psychiatric issue," he said. "I was trying to protect that. There is no set policy for cell phone use and it's up to the EMT. With a cell phone, you can avoid interference on the radio and have more clarity in transferring information. The deputy stated it like I tried to hold back information or talk to the hospital about giving information I didn't want anyone else to know, and that wasn't it at all."
After arriving at the hospital and taking Martinez into a room as directed, Zabala said Haycook spoke with Dr. Tommy Trent, and as Zabala and hospital staff were taking Martinez off the gurney, Trent said to stop.
"Dr. Trent said that Pedro was just drunk and he could do nothing for him," Zabala said. "I told the doctor about Pedro falling and hitting his head, and that he was a mental patient and had mixed medications with alcohol. Dr. Trent replied, 'We can't do nothing for him.'"
Haycook said when the group came through the door, the doctor asked, "Why are you bringing him here?"
"I pulled him off to the side because it was inappropriate to talk openly about that," Haycook said. "I explained to him [Martinez] was intoxicated and on medications and the family wanted him to be transported to Cox North. I told him was not safe to transport him because he was not properly controlled, and the reason we brought him here was to get him stabilized and then to go on from there.
"He then stepped aside and went on with what he was going to do. That was also a part of using the phone because if they did not want to accept him or could not accept him, all they had to do was tell me then."
Haycook said he feels information was intentionally left out of Zabala's report.
"He didn't put in there that the patient was combative or in handcuffs and it seemed like he was trying to slam me because I didn't transport the patient where his wife wanted him to go, and he was well aware of why we weren't doing that," he said. "I did exactly what I though was appropriate for policy and protocols, and he may not understand that. It feels like a deliberate act of malice against me."
Haycook said on Jan. 6, Pierce contacted him about the report.
"When I was told what the report said, especially the part about him just being intoxicated and needing to sleep it off, I was automatically furious," he said. "I don't remember saying anything like that at all, and that's totality out of my character.
"I went ahead and came on in and she wanted me to write down everything that I did. I told her it was all in the patient contact report but she wanted me to start from the beginning with everything that happened."
Haycook said he submitted a 10-page follow-up report, and Pierce also talked to Green about the incident. Green, who said he also filed his own report, was suspended for one day without pay during the district's internal investigation.
"I was suspended because I was part of that crew," he said. "They couldn't do something to one and not do something to the other is basically what I got out of it."
Haycook was fired three days after submitting the report, and to this day, said he still has not been given a reason for his termination.
"I think I deserve some kind of explanation here," he said. "Usually, there has to be some just cause there, but none was given."
Because of his termination, Haycook said he is exploring his legal options, mainly citing a code of ethics violation on the part of the ambulance district and the deputy.
"I have gone to some legal counsel about what happened and the termination especially," he said. "I knew by going in and talking with this attorney there are sovereign immunity laws that protect ambulance districts and fire protection districts from litigation on certain issues. He did say, though, there are other issues in which they are not immune from, which I knew was for conduct or ethics violations that may have occurred here of before.
"If there is an ethics violation and any one of those [ambulance district] board members knew it was occurring and let it occur, they would be dismissed from the board."
Haycook said he has been in contact with the Missouri Ethics Commission concerning the incident.
Pierce said employment status is not determined by board action. The office manager, except in cases involving family members, is responsible for hiring and firing.
Haycook said he has been in the law enforcement and paramedic fields for 35 years, at the local and state levels. He is also a board member for the Duenweg Fire Protection District near Joplin.