Two New York City EMT's accused of walking away from a pregnant woman who collapsed and later died have been suspended, city officials said today.
The two fire department employees, Jason Green, 32, of Long Island City and Melissa Jackson, 32, of Queens Village, were suspended without pay as the investigation continues into allegations they refused to help the woman because they were on break and wanted to eat breakfast.
Mayor Bloomberg called the EMTs actions 'unconscionable." When asked if "burnout" might have been a factor, the Mayor said,"Burnout? They were sitting there having coffee. How could they be burnt out? They're human beings. Somebody is dying down the street and (people) say help them and they just sat there."
Eutisha Rennix and the baby she was three months from delivering died during the Dec. 9 incident.
Witnesses said the emergency workers were on break ordering breakfast at the Metro-tech Center Au Bon Pain restaurant where Rennix worked as a cashier. She collapsed in a woman's bathroom and several workers and customers asked the EMT workers for help. Instead, they said they walked out of the store telling them to call 9-1-1.
Rennix, who suffered from asthma, leaves behind a three year old son. Her twin brother and mother are in shock.
"She loved her son and would do anything for anybody," said her twin brother Eudane Rennix. "To hear it was two ems workers who didn't want to help is heartbreaking."
Union officials said most EMT's whether on duty and off - always do their best to try to save lives.
"We never condone activity by our members that can hurt the public," said Bob Ungar, spokesman for Uniformed EMTs & Paramedics, FDNY Local 2507.
Witnesses did call 9-1-1. An ambulance from Long Island College Hospital was dispatched but the call was initially classified as low priority. Only when a second 9-1-1 call at 9:24 reported a woman having trouble breathing was phoned in was the call classified as a level 2 emergency and paramedics were dispatched. At 9:26, the first ambulance arrived and then at 9:28 the paramedics arrived. Rennix was pronounced dead at 10:17.
The fire department for now has also suspended the work of the two Long Island College Hospital EMT's because there are questions as to whether they were carrying proper equipment. A hospital spokeswoman said," We have carefully and thoroughly conducted our own internal review of our response to the event, given the tragic outcome, and we fully and completely stand by our response and the care provided by our EMTs. They did all they could to save the life of the patient and her baby."
Both the State Health Department and the FDNY have opened their own probes.
As for Green and Jackson, fire department officials said they were working as dispatchers out of fire department headquarters. But they had appropriate training to assist in an emergency. Some Au Bon Pain workers said they think the pair knew Rennix, that they had purchased breakfast from her in the past.
Rennix's death appears to mirror the tragic death of Esmine Green in Kings County Hospital's Psychiatric Emergency Room in June 2008. Video showed Green collapse to the floor and yet doctors, nurses and security guards ignored her for hours.
An angry mayor said Monday most emergency workers care greatly and that the above incidents appear to be isolated events.
As for Rennix's family, they have hired attorney Sanford Rubinstein. They say their top concern now is caring for a three year old boy who has lost his mom and does not understand why.
"He asks every day for his mommy," said Eduane Rennix. "The other morning he woke up and said,'I have to go take care of his mommy. She'd dead.' He doesn't understand she's not coming back."