San Francisco Fire Dept. investigated for allowing paramedics to work without proper credentials

The San Francisco Fire Department is being investigated for allegedly allowing 13 of its paramedics to work without proper county accreditation. Fire officials say the issue was caused by a “procedural error.”

The Emergency Medical Services Authority's Enforcement Unit sent letters to the paramedics on Jan. 8 notifying them of the opened investigation. If the allegations are found to be true, they could be violating healthy and safety codes. Sources close to the investigation tell 2 Investigates a number of the paramedics now fear they may lose their licenses and careers, and the fire department is to blame. 

Both the fire department and SFFD Local 798 emphasize the issue never created a public safety risk. 

“Keep in mind, none of these people had a lapse in the license or accreditation,” said Stephen Giacalone. In his position as the director of Local 798, Giacalone is representing the 13 paramedics. 

According to Giacalone, the paramedics are all individually licensed. He says they were working for private providers before being hired by the San Francisco Fire Department. In the process of bringing them on board and promoting them from EMTs to paramedics, Giacalone says, the department made a clerical error. In doing so, the paramedics were technically allowed to work in the field for four months without correct paperwork, he says. 

The issue was reported back to state investigators at the Emergency Medical Services Authority. Investigators are in the process of interviewing each of the 13 paramedics involved.

“They were upset. They were confused…All of our members, every man and woman works hard every day for the city and to have this happen, you make them upset and angry. You put fear that something else could happen to their livelihoods and careers. It could potentially cause a problem to something here in [San Francisco], which is already pushed to the limit.”

Since 2014, KTVU has been reporting on problems with ambulance response times in San Francisco.  At the time, 2 Investigates obtained fire department records showing slow response times for some potentially life-threatening emergencies. Fire officials cited limited funding, rising call volumes and limited staffing due to retirements and promotions for the ambulance delays.  
In response to the current state investigation, SFFD Lt. Jonathan Baxter sent 2 Investigates at statement on Sunday saying “There was a procedural error, which was identified and immediately corrected. Safeguards have been put in place to prevent this type of error from occurring in the future. At no time was the public’s safety compromised.”

The fire department declined KTVU's request for an on-camera interview.