At least 200 emergency medical technicians and paramedics in Massachusetts and New Hampshire have been practicing under fake recertification credentials that they bought instead of earned, state public health officials revealed Wednesday. Eighteen of the first responders under investigation are Boston firefighters, who are said to have collected roughly $2,000 in overtime for the training, during which they actually spent socializing at bars and restaurants, reports the Boston Herald.
Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach told the Boston Globe today that the state will be taking "aggressive action to make sure people who have deliberately falsified information are appropriately disciplined," but noted that the investigation thus far hadn't indicated that public safety had been compromised.
State heath officials regulate the certification process, but rely on local trainers to keep accurate lists of individuals who attended the required 24 to 36 hours of training and passed certification tests. In the cases of fraud discovered so far, trainers included on their attendance rosters people who did not participate in training, according to the Globe. The investigation, which began about a month ago following tips that first responders in the two states were getting documentation from 'certificate mills,' is expected to continue to include other communities.
Auerbach did not say how many instructors are suspected of handing out phony recertifications, but told the Herald it was a "limited number" and that offenders' licenses to train EMTs have been "stripped."
Although so far the state is merely demanding that improperly certified technicians and paramedics undergo training and has not revealed whether it will prosecute, the town of Haverhill--where a "substantial" number of the fraudulently obtained credentials were allegedly handed out--has removed 29 firefighters from EMT duty while it probes the allegations.