• 9 Investigates: State investigators look into allegations against EMTs

    By: Kathryn Burcham

    Updated:

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - State investigators revoked the license of two Medic EMTs after they tested positive for a powerful narcotic drug.

    Eyewitness News has uncovered hundreds of pages of state records detailing allegations of illegal and unethical behavior by local EMTs and paramedics.

    "There's no question they were trying to hide it," said Medic director Jeff Keith.

    State health officials said Medic EMT Ronald Patterson had a pattern. He'd give patients partial doses of the powerful painkiller fentanyl and keep the rest, mixing it with saline and selling it.

    "That's a crime and that's a shame," Keith said.

    Keith said that last summer, a drug test revealed Patterson and another EMT, Lucas Gale, tested positive for fentanyl while on the job.

    The men resigned and their credentials were revoked.

    "From a safeguard perspective, though, it doesn't make you feel good. We are trusted by this community," Keith said.

    That same trust, state officials said, was violated by another Medic EMT -- Stephanie Massey.

    Channel 9 obtained hundreds of pages of records from the Department of Health and Human Services that show Massey was investigated last July after an anonymous complaint about patient information posted on Massey's Facebook page.

    According to records, Massey posted an X-ray of a broken leg and poked fun at an 80-year-old dementia patient.

    "None of us should be subjected to that kind of ridicule, especially on a Facebook posting," said Dr. David Perry, an ethics professor with the Vann Center for Ethics.

    Perry said while those posts weren't illegal, they were certainly unprofessional.

    "There's a degree of privacy that we have both a moral and legal right to expect there," Perry said.

    Keith said Massey was disciplined but not fired.

    "I'd like to say that I won't see something like that again," Keith said.

    Other questionable behavior led state investigators to Gaston County EMS in December after they said EMT Adrienne Hill repeatedly slapped a patient across the face during a call.

    Hill resigned after the investigation. However, other Gaston County EMTs have kept their jobs despite drunken-driving arrests and convictions. In Susan Passmore's case, it was both.

    Eyewitness News asked if a person convicted of drunken driving should be allowed back behind the wheel of an ambulance.

    "Well, that's certainly the million-dollar question," said Mark Lamphier, director of Gaston County EMS.

    Lamphier said each case is weighed individually and said he has promoted another EMT to captain after a drunk driving conviction

    "Ya know, sometimes people make mistakes and some people get past those and some people don't," Lamphier said.

    GEMS was the center of another investigation by state officials in 2011, after they discovered EMT Brian Sutherland had been working with Dallas Township Rescue for nearly a year despite an extensive criminal background including assault, stalking and domestic violence.

    "The county and the rescue squads do background checks; at the time, the rescue squads were doing their own background checks, and apparently something slipped through the cracks," Lamphier said.

    Sutherland resigned and GEMS oversees background checks at all rescue squads in the county.

    Officials at Medic and GEMS said they have hundreds of other employees who work hard to save lives every day and understand just how crucial it is who is behind the wheel.

    Channel 9 contacted the EMTs in the investigation for comment, but they did not respond.

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