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'I Was Unable To Hold Them Accountable': Outgoing Medical Director Blasts Dysfunction At D.C. Fire And EMS

In a scathing resignation letter to D.C.'s mayor, Dr. Jullette Saussy wrote that people are "dying needlessly" because the fire department "is moving too slow" to reform itself.
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In a scathing resignation letter to D.C.'s mayor, Dr. Jullette Saussy wrote that people are "dying needlessly" because the fire department "is moving too slow" to reform itself.

The outgoing medical director for D.C.'s Fire and EMS department is speaking out publicly after resigning out of frustration with the job.

In a scathing resignation letter to the mayor last month, Dr. Jullette Saussy wrote that people are "dying needlessly" because the fire department "is moving too slow" to reform itself.

Saussy is leaving after only seven months on job. She was recruited from New Orleans to help overhaul the District's troubled fire department.

Speaking on the Kojo Nnamdi Show Thursday, Saussy says she realized that mission was not possible because of the department's culture and its resistance to reform.

"I was unable to hold them accountable," says Saussy. "It was unbelievable to me, coming from where I come from and having been an EMT and a paramedic at 19, to be acceptable to not answer your radio."

The fire department has been faulted for a number of high-profile deaths and systemic problems over the years. Saussy says that while the fire department does admirable work providing help, the city needs to be much more consistent.

"It cannot be Russian Roulette," she says.

D.C.'s department combines both fire and EMS services, although 80 percent of service calls are medical. For Saussy, part of the problem is how the department is structured.

"It is difficult for a medical director to report to a fire chief," she says. "We have two very different functions, two very different focuses, and it's often met with resistance. In this case, very high-level resistance."

Saussy's last day is Saturday.

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