Breaking: Paramedic at Denver Health forged certification, boss covered up
The Colorado department that oversees EMT certification in the state is investigating a veteran paramedic for forging documents and working for six months without proper authorization at Denver Health Medical Center.
Westword has learned that Robert Loop, who began working as a paramedic at Denver Health thirteen years ago, failed to gain recertification of his EMT license in March. But after presenting hospital administration with false certification documents, Loop continued responding to calls as an EMS Operations Captain until mid-September. That was when Paramedic Chief Michael Nugent received a letter from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment stating that Loop was not certified.
But rather than terminate his longtime friend, Nugent took the extraordinary step of transferring Loop to Denver’s 911 dispatch center, where dispatchers are not required to have certification.
“We all thought it was really weird,” says one employee at the dispatch center. “It was all very hush-hush.”
Nugent resigned from his post last month and was recently hired by the Colorado Department of Transportation to run the Office of Transpiration Safety, where he oversees a state program to reduce traffic crashes, fatalities and injuries.
Loop was terminated last Friday after Denver Health administrators learned that he had not been certified while administering emergency care. "Denver Health never knowingly allows uncertified paramedics, or any other uncertified or unlicensed health-care professional, to care for patients," says hospital spokesperson Dee Martinez.
Ironically, Loop was the paramedic who unmasked serial paramedic impersonator Brett Andrews at the scene of a 2006 car crash, an experience Loop detailed to this reporter for the Westword story "The Great Impersonator."
Andrews served several months in jail after being convicted of criminal impersonation. It's not yet known if Loop will face charges for forging his certification document. The Colorado Attorney General’s Office recently filed felony charges against a man who created fake documents to work as a paramedic for a private ambulance company in Aurora.
The Denver Auditor's Office is compiling an audit of Denver Health ambulance response times, which a Westword investigation found to be in violation of city contracts.
The CDPHE has not yet commented on the Loop investigation. Neither Nugent nor Loop could be reached for comment. -- Jared Jacang Maher
UPDATE 4:55PM: Randy Kuykendall, head of the emergency medical and trauma services section at the CDPHE, called and said that the department first became aware of a problem with Loop's certification when Denver Health contacted the department on September 11 as part of a regular check-up on employee certification. When state officials said their databases showed that Robert Loop was not certified, hospital officials sent them the EMT certificate that Loop had presented.
CDPHE quickly opened an investigation and determined that the certificate was a fake. Department officials then sent a letter detailing these findings to Denver Health's Paramedic Division in mid-September. To whom was the letter sent?
“It would have been Chief Mike Nugent and his second in charge, James Robinson,” explained Kuykendall. “Those were the people we were working with.”
But even though the letter indicated that Loop had forged an official document and lied for months about his certification status, on September 19 he was transferred into the 911 dispatch division, where he was allowed to handle emergency communications for six more weeks before being terminated.
Though Mike Nugent resigned and is currently at CDOT, James Robinson is now acting as the interim Chief of the Paramedic Division.
According to Kuykendall, the CDPHE has concluded its investigation and has sent all of its information to the Attorney General’s Office. -- Maher
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.