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Emergency responders may have faked certificates, officials say

By Cassie Spodak, CNN
  • Two states investigating allegations of falsified EMT course completion certificates
  • Massachusetts and New Hampshire EMTs, firefighters and police being investigated
  • No incident of inadequate treatment have been uncovered, officials say

New York (CNN) -- More than 200 emergency medical technicians, firefighters and police officers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire may have to surrender their licenses after an investigation into falsified EMT course completion certificates, state officials say.

First responders must complete recertification courses every two years, but the investigation found that although some of them had been awarded certificates, they had not attended all the required classes, said Jen Manley, spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

All of those under suspicion had been trained correctly before, she said, and the Public Health Department has not found any incidents in which they provided inadequate care.

However, the department considers this a matter of falsifying training records and those under investigation are voluntarily suspended from providing medical treatment, Manley said.

The investigation, which is ongoing, began a month ago, she said.

Sue Prentiss, chief of emergency medical services for the New Hampshire Department of Safety, told CNN that up to 39 New Hampshire EMTs who received training at Massachusetts facilities also allegedly obtained false certifications.

All individuals under suspicion in the two states have confessed, and some are in the process of obtaining correct recertification, Manley and Prentiss said.

The certifications under investigation were issued in 2008 and 2009, according to Manley, and the state is currently reviewing records from the past two years.

The Boston Fire Department was notified about the investigation, which concerns 18 of their firefighters, on Wednesday, said spokesman Steve MacDonald. He said the fire department is not yet aware of what the 18 firefighters would be charged with, just that their names are on the list.

Although firefighters are not required to receive EMT certification, the fire department issues stipends to individuals who complete the courses as an incentive for them to be trained as first responders, MacDonald said. Recertification courses cost $100 to $200 and stipends can go up to $2,000.

Prentiss told CNN that the New Hampshire Department of Safety became aware of the allegations on May 13 when one of the training institutions came to the department with the results of an internal investigation. All of the training institutions being investigated are cooperating with the state and have provided lists of individuals who attended their classes, Manley and Prentiss said.

Both told CNN that although private employers can discipline workers as they see fit, the states will not pursue punishment until the investigation is complete. However, "we take this very seriously" said Manley, and the state might consider suspending or revoking the licenses of EMTs with falsified certificates.