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Jan 19 2012

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Fire Department reviews certification procedures

The Longview Fire Department is currently reviewing internal procedures to ensure all employees maintain current licenses and certifications. On December 27, 2011, the Longview Fire Department learned that an employee had allowed their paramedic certification to lapse. The Fire Department immediately conducted an additional audit that revealed another employee had similarly neglected to renew their certification. One certificate had lapsed by five months and the other by four months. The certifications are issued through the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).
It is the employee’s responsibility to keep track of certification expiration dates. The Fire Department encourages employees to renew Texas DSHS certifications at least three months prior to expiration date to ensure a smooth recertification process.
Both employees were immediately placed on unpaid suspension in accordance with Longview Fire Department policy. During their unpaid suspension, both employees completed the necessary steps to reinstate the certification and were cleared to return to active duty. One employee returned to work on Thursday, January 12, and the other returned to work on Friday, January 13.
According to Fire Chief J.P. Steelman, “Both of these employees have a good track record with the Longview Fire Department, and they had received all the necessary training to remain up-to-date in their knowledge and skills. However, each employee is required to file the appropriate paperwork to renew their license, and they failed to do so in a timely manner.”
The Fire Department is currently reviewing existing procedures for certification tracking. According to Assistant Chief Curtis Shaw, “I would estimate that in addition to continuing education, Fire Department employees maintain a collection of over 1000 certifications with unique expiration dates and renewal criteria. Even though it is ultimately the employee’s responsibility to renew certifications, it is important that we continually monitor the status of those certifications.”
Since learning of the certification lapse, the Longview Fire Department has been in contact with the regulating agency Texas DSHS. On January 10, DSHS requested additional information about the incident including related paperwork and dispatch reports. The Longview Fire Department continues to investigate the incident and is working to provide a full response to DSHS.
Chief Steelman states, “It is our standard operating procedure to provide two paramedics on each call, so I don’t believe patient care was ever jeopardized during the time of the employees’ certification lapse. Furthermore, although the expiration of the license was unacceptable, I am confident the employees were still competent in their skills.”
For more information, please contact the Longview Fire Department at 903-237-1210.

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