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In 2006, veteran Denver Health paramedic Robert Loop unmasked serial paramedic impersonator Brett Andrews at the scene of a rollover car crash ("The Impersonator," August 31, 2006). "I knew that something wasn't right, because he was wearing our uniform, but I didn't recognize him," Loop said then.
Two years later, it's Loop who has been accused of faking things. As first reported on westword.com, state officials say Loop forged a document that allowed him to work for six months without proper authorization at Denver Health Medical Center.
Unlike Andrews, who had zero medical training when he donned the medic's white shirt, Loop joined the Denver Paramedic Division thirteen years ago and later became EMS operations captain.
But when Loop failed to gain recertification of his EMT license after it expired last March, he did some doctoring of his own by putting his name on someone else's certificate and presenting it to hospital administrators, says Randy Kuykendall, head of the emergency medical and trauma services section at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Loop then continued in his job, which included planning operations for the Democratic National Convention and responding to emergency calls, until mid-September.
That was when Denver Health contacted the state department that oversees EMT certification as part of a regular checkup on employee certification and found that Loop was not listed in the state database. When hospital officials sent the EMT certificate that Loop had presented, the state opened an investigation and found it to be a forgery, Kuykendall says. On September 16, the CDPHE sent a letter detailing these findings to then-paramedic division chief Mike Nugent and his second-in-charge, James Robinson.
"All of the information we have been able to gather indicates that the facsimile he sent in is not a valid certificate," said the letter, which added that an investigation was being opened that "could lead to further action by this office."
But rather than terminate his longtime friend or place him on leave, Nugent took the extraordinary step of transferring Loop to Denver's 911 dispatch center, where dispatchers are not required to have EMT certification, according to hospital officials.
Loop, who could not be reached for comment, continued to handle emergency communications for several weeks. While Nugent failed to respond to several calls from Westword, he did testify August 5 in an unrelated city hearing that he kept the CDPHE's conclusions hidden from top hospital administrators by justifying Loop's transfer as being for "personal reasons," says attorney David Bruno.
"His answer was that it was not something [administration] needed to know in the day-to-day operations," says Bruno, who represents paramedics Becky Sproul and Greg Sawyer in a still-unresolved wrongful-termination case. Nugent testified that he "demoted Loop at his request to another area where he wouldn't need certification and sat on that question for two weeks before he let upper management know about it," Bruno adds.
But paramedic sources say the whole issue might have disappeared if hospital administrators hadn't received an anonymous letter in early October alerting them to Loop's status. This was also about the time Nugent resigned from his post to take a job at the Colorado Department of Transportation running the Office of Transportation Safety. James Robinson is now interim chief of the paramedics division. Loop's last day of employment was October 29.
"Denver Health never knowingly allows uncertified paramedics, or any other uncertified or unlicensed health-care professional, to care for patients," says Dee Martinez, spokeswoman for the hospital, which is also facing an audit of its ambulance response times, and which Westword found to be in violation of city contracts ("State of Emergency," June 3, 2008).
According to Kuykendall, the CDPHE has concluded its investigation and has sent all of its information to the Colorado Attorney General's Office. It's not yet known if Loop will face charges for forging his certification.