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State shuts down Delran Emergency Squad

State shuts down Delran Emergency Squad

 

DELRAN – State regulators have shut down the Delran Emergency Squad, saying its chief lacks an EMT certification and has tried to thwart an investigation.

“You may not, under any circumstances, operate as a BLS (basic life support) service provider,” Scot Phelps, New Jersey’s paramedic director, said in a letter announcing the squad’s summary suspension.

The letter, which also alleged Chief Donald Horner had threatened investigators, said a summary suspension can be imposed when “the continued licensure of that provider poses an immediate or serious threat to the public health, safety or welfare.”

Personnel from other squads in Burlington County have staffed the Delran squad’s Chester Avenue station since the suspension took effect Monday, said Jeffrey Hatcher, Delran’s administrator.

“We have coverage,” said Hatcher, who noted the local squad also serves neighboring Riverside.

He said township officials are seeking agreements from “several of these squads” to cover Delran and Riverside on a “30-day basis.”

The Delran squad responded to almost 5,000 calls last year, up from about 4,700 in 2016, according to its website.

In his letter, Phelps said the state’s Office of Emergency Medical Services was told on June 11 that Horner was allegedly working on an ambulance “without a current EMT certification.”

An investigator determined Horner’s EMT certificate had expired on Dec. 31, 2010, and his EMT-Instructor certificate had lapsed at year-end 2016.

According to Phelps, investigators cut short an attempted audit on June 13 “due to threats of bodily injury” from Horner.

“In fact, you were belligerent, combative and uncooperative,” said Phelps’ hand-delivered letter, which alleged Horner “deliberately hindered” the investigation.

Horner could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Phelps asserted Horner was “verbally abusive … and even stated to the investigators that you needed to leave before you ‘killed yourself or killed you,’ meaning the investigators.”

As the investigators were leaving the Delran station, the letter says, “You followed them out, continued to scream and threaten them and, at one point, were nose-to-nose with one of the investigators.”

When the investigators returned the next day “with the assistance of the Delran Police Department,” they were referred first to the squad’s attorney and then to an information technology specialist, the letter said.

“However, when the specialist was contacted for a follow up question, he advised that his access had been restricted and he could not help any longer,” Phelps said.

The squad’s president, Josephine Hubbs, said she had restricted the worker’s access “because the board was concerned about the integrity of the data.”

Hubbs said she would “reinstate the account and there would be no further issues” after she was advised the restriction was considered hindering an investigation, the letter noted.

Under state law, it observed, the Delran squad was required to give investigators “unfettered access” to its records and other information.

The investigation determined the Delran squad had violated a requirement that each BLS ambulance carry at least two certified EMTs.

“Specifically, you, Don Horner, worked on an ambulance as a second EMT at least 27 times from January 2017 to present, even though you were not certified to act as an EMT,” the letter said.

Phelps also alleged Horner had removed his name “from the patient care reports and replaced it with currently certified personnel.”

Phelps also said efforts to thwart investigators prevent the state “from determining whether the agency is in violation of other regulatory requirements.”

The letter said the state would advise Delran “as to what actions, if any,” will be taken with the squad’s license.

It noted the squad can also apply to the state’s health commissioner, Dr. Shereef M. Elnahal, for emergency relief.

Jim Walsh: @jimwalsh_cp; 856-486-2646; jwalsh@gannettnj.com

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