All sides of the story Reasoning behind EMS firing by Brandon LaChance Samantha Marshall, a Dwight paramedic since April, 2020 was terminated at the Village of Dwight Board Meeting on December 13.
The reasoning behind the firing was because of improper Covid-19 personal protective equipment — not wearing a N95 Mask — during a call on Dec. 7, according to Dwight Mayor Paul Johnson.
Marshall feels the decision to remove her from the Dwight EMS staff was unfair and unjustified.
“We had a patient come in in obvious severe respiratory distress. We had an ambulance down. Our lone ambulance was on a call,” said Marshall, who has 12 years of paramedic experience and has earned Life Saver Awards. “They didn’t call for a change of quarters like they should have. We should have had another ambulance from another town sitting there when this patient came in. They didn’t call for that. They also didn’t get disciplined for it.
“With the ambulance being down for so long there wasn’t any supplies on it. The supplies we needed, including masks, were scattered throughout the bay. The patient was in the fetal position and we had to aggressively treat this patient.
“When we started treating her, our last thoughts were, ‘Oh, I’m going to look for a mask for five minutes.’ It could have very easily been a life-or-death situation for the patient and we had to act fast.”
The patient was 47-year-old Wilmington resident Dawn Trizna, who is the mother of Marshall’s partner Rachel Groll (who was also on the call) and Marshall’s friend.
Trizna had been diagnosed with Covid on Nov. 26, but has doctor paperwork stating she wasn’t contagious as of Dec. 5.
With the incident taking place two days later, Marshall, Groll, and Trizna felt helping Trizna breathe was more important than wearing a mask.
“During my time with Covid I was fine. I had a little bit of a cough and I lost my taste and smell. That was no big deal,” Trizna said. “Then I started having flu like symptoms. I told my doctor I wasn’t ready to go to work and he said I needed to be reevaluated.
“He told me to come in because he said it may be possible I have pneumonia. My cough was getting worse and I was weak. When I got to the doctor, I was so weak that they had to walk me up to the door, wheel me into the facility with a wheelchair. My oxygen level was fine at the time because I used my inhaler. They did a chest x-ray and gave me some new medications. They said I should go to the emergency room because I may be dehydrated.”
Trizna called Groll and told her she was still having trouble breathing.
The mother, daughter, or Marshall didn’t know if her issues were because of Covid, possible pneumonia or an allergic reaction Trizna had suffered through most of November.
After Trizna drove to the Village of Dwight Services Complex to meet Marshall and Groll, her measurement of oxygen going through her blood was read. A normal reading is 98-100. Trizna’s was at a 93 while her face and neck were red.
“They had my husband pull into the bay because the ambulance was at Morris Hospital. They treated me inside of her vehicle,” said Trizna, who believes the Dwight Board should have some compassion for the situation and the fact that Marshall and Groll knew she wasn’t contagious and did everything they were supposed to help her breathe.
“They were trying to figure out what was wrong because they thought I was going to go into respiratory arrest. “I was in EMS for 22 years. I was a paramedic for 16 years and I worked for Dwight for 12 years. I worked in Morris for four years. I worked with Sam in Coal City. I know policy, procedures and everything a provider needs to know. I know what’s going on and what they can and can’t do.
“Sam turned Gardner away and VCOM is giving her a tough time about it. She requested Coal City because I needed the advance life support and not basic. They were giving me medication to counteract any allergic reaction I was having. They were trying to give me fluids and I was on a cardiac monitor.”
Marshall and Groll were able to help Trizna and when an ambulance arrived, Groll asked Dwight Chief of Police and EMS Interim Director, Tim Henson, permission to ride the ambulance with her mother.
Henson granted the permission.
Marshall was called on Dec. 9 (her birthday) and was told there was a meeting on Dec. 13 to discuss what happened during the incident and possible termination.
“I was called by Chief Henson and Kevin McNamara (Dwight Village Administrator) and they had asked if I could meet with them because they had a concern about a situation that happened on an EMS call,” Mayor Johnson said. “We sat down and Tim laid out the issues he had with the call.
“Samantha was recently hired full-time with village after being a part-time employee. When they get hired into a full-time, pensioned position, any employee – even if they’re a seasonal worker – they go on a 6-month probation period. It gives the village time to review their performance. Even somebody we didn’t know, they’re all going on the same probation period.”
With Marshall being on probation, the village doesn’t need to follow any protocols or rules to terminating an employee. Johnson said after reviewing a request of termination from Henson, firing Marshall was justified.
“The board and I take this very seriously. They’re supposed to be professionals and they need to act professional,” Johnson said. “Samantha didn’t wear the proper PPE. If Samantha had been exposed and ultimately contracted Covid, Covid for an EMS employee is considered a presumptive illness which means it would be a workman’s compensation case.
“It would cost the village money because she was exposed to Covid. There are procedures in place to mitigate that from happening. Hypothetically, if she would have come down with Covid, she could have sued the village for work comp, went on work comp, and would have been a lost-time injury for the village, which ultimately, raises our workman’s comp premium rates. The rate wouldn’t have just gone up for her, the rates go up across the village as a whole.
“It was bad judgement in what she did. Every department around is following these protocols. It’s not something new. It’s not something that they’ve just found out about. They’ve been practicing these protocols for a long time. The hospitals send out information about it constantly. The violation goes to show that there are some judgement issues. I expect our EMTs and paramedics to be professional. They make a really good wage and they have everything they could possibly want. They need to do their job.”
Marshall feels she shouldn’t have been on probation because of her track record and the number of hours she put in as a part-time paramedic.
She also stated, Dwight EMS had to hire her to a full-time position because she wouldn’t have been able to log in any more hours without the village having to pay into IMRF (Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund).
“It makes me feel extremely irritated because I don’t understand why they go after paramedics, police officers, or fire fighters when we are people going above and beyond trying to help other people,” said Marshall, who is co-owner of Naked Sun Salon & Spa in Diamond. “Are you that bored? Do something else.”
“I’ve not had a single issue over my 12-year career. I haven’t had any write ups or any disciplinary actions at all. I have a great working relationship with the fire department, the police department, hospitals, and other agencies.”
Groll, who isn’t in a probation period, didn’t get reprimanded immediately as the village has to follow protocol with the review of termination policy.
Henson, who was on vacation, had to submit a review to Mayor Johnson for a board meeting for Groll.
Groll received a call Dec. 17 saying she too will have a meeting with possible termination.
Brandon LaChance is a journalist with The Paper. LaChance can be reached at (815) 876-7941, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @LaChanceWriter.