I-TEAM UPDATE: Docs show EMT in case of man killed on I-95 had history of getting high on the job

By  | 

Thursday, March 28, 2019
News 12 at 6 O'Clock

ORANGEBURG COUNTY, SC (WRDW/WAGT) -- A paramedic with a history of getting high on the job was one of the EMTs who failed a man with a disability.

Paul Tarashuk had schizphrenia. He was hit and killed on Interstate 95 after Orangeburg County EMS abandoned him.

Our I-Team has learned this isn't the first time the state has investigated the paramedic who failed him.

Orangeburg County did not report the events leading up to Tarashuk's death, but an anonymous person did. Seven months later, DHEC published its actions, and we found problems across South Carolina.

It didn’t take a trained professional to realize something was wrong with Tarashuk.

Tarashuk was non-verbal by the time EMS arrived. On body camera footage captured the moments during Tarashuk’s treatment by the EMS team, we see Alison Harmon. Harmon, a paramedic, was the senior medical person on board the ambulance.

Harmon and the team did not take Tarashuk to the hospital. Four hours later, he was killed by car while walking down I-95.

DHEC determined Harmon and EMT Jamie Davis did not properly assess Tarahshuk. They abandoned him instead of taking him to the hospital. They also lied. Givens falsified records to read Tarashuk was alert and oriented. The same agency that wrote this in March is the same agency allowing both to work.

Harmon is allowed to work as an EMT while suspended as a paramedic. Givens is allowed to work on probation while suspended as an EMT.

Neither had their certifications revoked. Neither were fined. But DHEC did order both to take an ethics class.

We showed Rep. Justin Bamberg something even more baffling.

"To see something like this where one of the paramedics got essentially a slap on the wrist and was put back in a situation that lead to a person passing away, it’s disturbing,” Bamberg said.

DHEC determines enforcement action based on several items including prior violations. DHEC gave information to its oversight board in March. It shows Harmon had no prior violations.

But, three years ago, DHEC wrote Harmon, "suffers from a drug addiction, appearing under the influence several times while on duty." "Drug use to such a degree as to render her unfit to perform as a paramedic."

"A danger to patients,” the document also said.

DHEC told her to go to rehab and she could reapply for her certification in three months. The agency didn't even fine her.

“You can’t help but wonder if DHEC had done something different would the result had been different if another paramedic was on scene that day,” Bamberg said.

EMS statewide face little repercussions for violations.

In September, two SouthStar EMTs bought and smoked weed on duty in Aiken County. DHEC allowed them to work on probation.

In November, Greenwood County EMS was dispatched to a nursing home for a patient with breathing problems. They drove back to the station so the incoming crew could run the call. They're working on probation. DHEC told them to take an ethics class.

In Dorchester County, instead of driving to a call, the EMT drove to pick up a to-go food order. He’s working on probation, too. His punishment? An ethics class.

Out of 52 violations over the last three years, DHEC only removed those criminally charged. All 52, including Harmon, a two-time violator, are the state lists as having no prior violations.

"We need to look at DHECs oversight of these things,” Bamberg said. “Are they just popping people on the wrist when they should be kicking people off the list?"

Bamberg wants answers. He's reviewing DHEC’s enforcement policy and plans to bring his findings to the State House.

"A young man is gone,” Bamberg said, “and his family will never have him back."

Nobody saved Paul Tarashuk, but maybe his story will save overs.