The Washington State Health Department is now investigating after firefighters in Bellingham did an intubation procedure on a dead patient for their own training.
An investigative report by the city found 11 employees attempted to intubate the body 15 times on the floor of a fire station.
When a nursing home patient died in a Bellingham medic unit this summer, firefighters brought his body to a fire station when the hospital didn't accept it.
According to a city investigation obtained by KIRO-TV, when the funeral home reported it would take 45 minutes to arrive for pickup, firefighters laid the body on the floor and began practicing endotracheal intubations.
Eleven people intubated the man's body for training, making 15 attempts.
The report concludes the training included not just paramedics, but an EMT as well as an office assistant and an accounting assistant, who later high-fived one another for participating.
"It was a terrible thing and that's why it's unacceptable," said Bellingham Fire Chief Bill Newbold.
The report concludes EMS Division Chief Mannix McDonnell authorized the office workers to join the training.
Newbold said the two top-ranking employees involved resigned before he could fire them.
Newbold said everyone involved received some kind of discipline, ranging from suspension without pay to letters in personnel files.
"The events that took place here are not something that's common," Newbold said.
The investigation did find a different practice that has gone on for 25 years where paramedics in Bellingham sometimes intubate deceased patients three or four times, a so-called "tube check" for their license recertification.
The report indicates the practice was recommended in certain circumstances by EMS Medical Program Director Dr. Marvin Wayne, who declined comment.
KIRO-TV checked around and could not find any other EMS services that allow intubations on dead patients for training.
King County officials said paramedics are required to do 12 intubations a year for their license, but they only do them on living patients.
If a paramedic doesn't get to 12 intubations, they make arrangements to do them in a hospital on a patient who needs it.
Newbold said the training policy in Bellingham is now under review, as is a discussion of where a body is taken when someone dies in a medic unit.
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Credit: Channel 2 Action News