Health Department investigates Rural Metro "fraud' involving paramedic certification

Investigators with the New York State Health Department are looking into allegations against Rural Metro Medical Services in Syracuse.

A source close to the investigation tells investigative reporter Jim Kenyon it involves whether some EMT's and Paramedics may have been fraudulently recertified without the required training.

Rural Metro General Manager Mike Addario confirms that representatives of the Health Department have been inside the company's Syracuse headquarters going over files and records. Addario downplayed the significance of the visit.

"An EMT or Paramedic has to go through so many hours of education, most of which they get off site. Basically we validate their training records, so we are responsible for maintaining records here. The Department of Health has the ability to come in and review those records to make sure they're adequate," Addario told Kenyon.

When asked if some of his employees lack the certification to do their jobs, Addario replied, "As far as I know, absolutely not. We look at our own internal training records on a regular basis. We have not found anything."

Last fall, Rural Metro conducted an internal investigation into a number of claims of wrongdoing by employees at the Syracuse office. In a lengthy and detailed complaint to Rural Metro's headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona, a group of employees called the Rural Metro Supervisory Team asked for a probe of:

- "Fraud" related to the New York State EMT and Paramedic recertification program

- Illegal phone tapping and a violation of privacy

- Sexual harassment

- Workplace violence and anger management issues

- Substance abuse

- Hostile work environment

Included in the complaint was a dash cam video inside an ambulance, which showed a supervisor ranting about a female employee. The video shows the male supervisor punching the roof of the ambulance and using extreme profanity in reference to the female worker. Addario says the video is 12 years old and said, "we deal with those instances individually with employees." He would not elaborate.

In an email outlining the results of the internal probe, the head of Human Resources would not discuss specific findings but said, "we took appropriate responsive actions."

In that email, Rural Metro's management seemed more concerned with how that dash cam video got out, calling it a "significant breach of confidentiality." It asked to provide the name of the worker who provided it, "so we can take appropriate action."

The source felt the internal probe was a whitewash, so a complaint was lodged with the State Health Department.

Late Wednesday afternoon, the New York Health Department issued the following statement. "The Department of Health's Bureau of EMS is looking at Rural Metro's records related to allegations of inappropriate documentation. Department staff are on site today."

Read the Request for an Internal Investigation document.

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