Fired fire captain and paramedic Tom Mackey, a 28-year veteran of the Cedar Rapids Fire Department, hasn’t lost his job yet.
The city’s three-member Civil Service Commission, to whom Mackey appealed to get his job back, on Thursday referred the matter back to the Fire Department and instructed it to conduct a due process hearing before it takes any action against Mackey.
The commission also said Mackey is to be returned to the status of administrative leave pending a due process hearing or other action by the department.
Gary Hinzman, a commission member, said the commission concluded after deliberations on Thursday that it wasn’t sure the Fire Department followed city policy and provided Mackey with a due process hearing before firing him on July 2.
Otherwise, Hinzman said the commission’s ruling on Thursday does not touch on the merits of the reasons for Mackey’s firing, which were aired by the Fire Department during Mackey’s 12-hour appeal hearing in front of the commission on Aug. 7.
Bill Roemerman, Mackey’s attorney, on Thursday said the commission ruling is neither a win nor a loss for Mackey.
“It undoes the fire chief’s action, but invites him to start over,” Roemerman said.
“Theoretically the chief (Mark English) could give Mackey his due process and decide not to fire him,” Mackey’s attorney continued. “On the other hand, the chief could fire him again, in which case it would be a ‘new’ discharge and the civil service appeal process will start all over again, assuming that Mackey chooses to appeal the new discharge.”
At the center of Mackey’s termination is a June 15 emergency medical call that sent him and his fire crew to the Mercy Care North medical clinic in northeast Cedar Rapids. In a patient room there, they found a hysterical, hyperventilating, crying woman about to throw up who told them she suffered from recurring severe migraine headaches.
In the 21-minute encounter that cost the 28-year firefighting veteran his job, Mackey, 55, a certified paramedic specialist, explained during the Civil Service Commission hearing that he administered a “slow push” of Valium to the woman to calm her down and subsequently administered a dose of morphine for her pain. He also directed one of the two other firefighters on his crew, also a paramedic, to administer a drug to control nausea.
The woman subsequently was treated and released from the hospital with a good outcome, the Fire Department’s contract medical director, emergency physician Dr. Brad Wisnousky, testified.
Even so, the Fire Department’s own routine review of the medical call report, which is part of the department’s “continuous quality improvement” program or CQI, raised a red flag about the use of Valium and morphine on the call. A subsequent in-house review by a battalion chief and the department’s emergency services coordinator soon questioned the thoroughness of Mackey’s written report about the medical call and about his failure to use monitoring equipment to test the woman’s vital signs after the drugs were administered.
Ultimately, Cedar Rapids firefighter paramedics like Mackey work under the direction of the department’s contract medical director, and Wisnousky concluded that he would no longer allow Mackey to work under him.
Mackey said he was following new protocols approved by the state of Iowa in January that he uses in his part-time job as the director of Tipton’s ambulance service in Cedar County.