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Firefighter Fired, Another Resigns For Refusing Patient

June 10, 1987

FORT PIERCE, Fla. (AP) _ A veteran firefighter was fired Wednesday and another has resigned for refusing to handle an AIDS patient, department spokesmen said.

St. Lucie County Fire Chief Ron McCorkle fired Thomas Curl, an 8 -year veteran, and Edward Drondoski quit after Lt. Robert Lewis filed a complaint against him.

They were working with Lewis on an emergency medical team May 31 when they received a call saying a 40-year-old man with AIDS needed transportation to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center, officials said.

Curl, 33, said he refused to deal with the patient and told Lewis he ″did not want to handle the patient for fear of my personal health and my family’s.″

He has a week to appeal his dismissal.

The reason for the firing ″was failure to participate in the handling of the AIDS patient,″ Assistant Chief Bill Fowler said Wednesday, noting county ambulances had transported patients with the deadly virus before. ″It’s the first time anybody’s refused to participate.″

Drondoski, 27, has been with the department for 2 1/2 years.

He said the patient was suffering from general weakness, but ″the family was adamant″ about ambulance service.

Drondoski said a private ambulance company, Lifeline Medical Services, was summoned but refused to carry the patient because he didn’t have Medicaid coverage and had no cash for the trip.

The private ambulance crew helped Lewis load the patient into the county ambulance, and Curl and Drondoski rode to the hospital in the ambulance cab, Fowler said.

Curl was critical of the department’s AIDS policy, which calls for the use of disposable gloves and masks.

″On television, we see people dealing with AIDS patients,″ he said. ″They’re wearing a lot more than a disposable gauze and a little old pair of gloves.″

But McCorkle defended the department’s policy, saying patients with AIDS are treated the same as others with infectious diseases.

″You treat it, you treat each patient the same. We’ve got procedures,″ the chief said. ″You have masks. You have gloves.″

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