The New Haven Fire Department has launched an internal investigation after a firefighter was found unresponsive while on duty.
“Any time one of our units does not respond, it is a great concern of all of us,” Chief John Alston told NBC Connecticut. “Whether that be a firefighter in distress or even a mechanical issue, we take all of it seriously."
Around 1:30 p.m. Saturday, an emergency at the firehouse on Woodward Avenue prevented New Haven firefighters from responding to a medical call.
“Just before they were able to get on to the apparatus they found one of the firefighters unresponsive,” Alston said. “The members then went into quick action, began to treat him.”
After the firefighter regained consciousness, his colleagues transported him to Yale-New Haven Hospital. He has since been released, the chief said.
“I cannot comment on any of his treatment even when he was in the firehouse on duty,” Alston said.
An AMR ambulance continued to the initial medical call, Alston said, adding, “the patient actually refused care there.”
The firefighter found unresponsive is on paid administrative leave, pending an internal investigation involving police, the city’s attorney and labor management.
New Haven Police were part of Saturday’s response at the firehouse, Alston said.
“We reached out to them over the weekend,” Alston said. “I have another meeting scheduled with them later on today to get their initial impressions as well, and they are part of a joint investigation.”
Pressed several times for more details during an interview at City Hall, the chief was tight-lipped about what happened citing the firefighter’s medical privacy rights and the open investigation.
“There’s always a balance between the public’s right to know, and they have every right to know who’s caring for them,” Alston said, “but we are also bound by contractual obligations and also HIPAA in terms of the type of treatment this person who fell ill received.”
Alston said he plans to release findings of the investigation to the public “to the degree that it does not violate his HIPAA rights.”
The question Alston said he wants answered the most is why did this happen.