Austin medic off the job, accused of being impaired on duty

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AUSTIN (KXAN) – A medic with Austin-Travis County EMS is off the job indefinitely pending appeal on suspicion she was under the influence of drugs at work and during a subsequent internal investigation.

A disciplinary memo shows 36 year-old Julie Hamilton was the subject of a complaint involving stolen narcotic medication from a patient’s home.

Oct. 13, 2013, the elderly woman called paramedics to her home in Manor, Texas.  After an examination, the woman refused to be transported.

That allowed Hamilton to move on to their next call, a 911 transport to a North Austin hospital. The memo makes no mention of who was driving that ambulance.

When her supervisors heard a complaint had been filed with Manor Police, they immediately pulled Hamilton from her shift and questioned her.

“Her vocal tone was animated and happy but she slurred her words and sounded very impaired,” said EMS Cmdr. Kurt Brown, describing Hamilton’s demeanor in the memo.

Brown’s observations that day were echoed by a second commander, an EMS chief and a Manor police officer. Sgt. Charles King said during his conversation with Hamilton she had “difficulty reading the Miranda (legal rights) warning, was swaying as she stood still, fumbled slowly through her wallet for her ID and her eyes were glassy.”

Even the patient who filed the stolen medication complaint noticed Hamilton was slurring her words while treating her. She said nothing to avoid offending the medic, the memo noted.

Based on reasonable suspicion of being impaired on the job, EMS managers brought Hamilton to a local hospital for drug testing. The public disciplinary memo includes several redacted paragraphs, blacked out likely for patient confidentiality or other legal reasons. Nonetheless, it concluded Hamilton’s impairment on duty warrants indefinite suspension.

The memo also notes Hamilton’s condition Oct. 13 forced her ambulance to be taken out of duty, putting the public at risk.

‘Pattern of impairment’
While the initial investigation was ongoing, Hamilton was reassigned to the EMS supply warehouse. A second complaint was filed on Jan. 2 by a supervisor who thought Hamilton’s speech was slurred when she called in to ask about her schedule and that she might be been ‘tripping on something.’

Third and fourth complaints about Hamilton’s apparent impairment were subsequently made after she made calls to city offices in January and February regarding the Oct. 13 incident.  EMS managers wrote that those separate incidents of misconduct ‘showed a continued pattern of impairment’ while Hamilton conducted city business and that bolstered the argument for her indefinite suspension.

The Austin-Travis county EMS Association which represents medics has yet to comment.

Hamilton, who records show has worked with the City of Austin since October 2002, has the right to appeal the ruling.

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