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posted: 8/26/2012 5:00 AM

Editorial: Failed leadership at Antioch Rescue Squad

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The Illinois Department of Public Health pulled no punches recently when it sent a scathing letter to the Antioch Rescue Squad with the informal findings of its investigation.

It cited a litany of misconduct involving squad members and their managers ranging from breaches of confidentiality of medical records to improper use of medications and unprofessional treatment of patients.

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The state blamed ARS's self-regulation -- or lack of it -- through a board made up only of its members that contributed to a failure to take corrective action.

It said dramatic changes are necessary, and recommended a plan of corrections be developed in 30 days.

We won't pull any punches either. This is a management mess that lands at the feet of ARS leaders and they must be held accountable.

Dramatic changes must include replacing Chief Wayne Sobczak, who is responsible for ensuring a professional, safe and tolerant workplace.

We also agree with the state's call for the rescue squad board to be reorganized to include independent medical and business professionals with no ties to the squad board, staff and management.

Leadership has ignored what appears to be an "Animal House" mentality run amok in a group that should be all about the serious business of helping people and saving lives.

"The prevailing management philosophy appears to be, 'If I did not see it, it did not happen and I'm not going to adequately investigate or take meaningful corrective action,' " state officials said in the four-page letter sent to Sobczak.

The state letter comes several months after an amended federal lawsuit was filed against the rescue squad by three female members alleging sexual harassment and alcohol use by paramedics and superiors while on duty.

The state's investigation revealed a shocking lack of administrative and management systems in place at the 73-year-old squad, which is staffed by volunteers and contracted personnel.

The squad has no personnel files, no formal rules of conduct, no formal disciplinary procedures.

That's appalling, but no more so than complaints about staff members being allowed to start their shift within a few hours of excessive consumption of alcohol and some patients being intentionally agitated or mistreated.

Antioch officials recently signed a 90-day contract with ARS, which provides ambulance services in the village and in Antioch Township, that will for the first time allow some village controls over the rescue squad operation.

That's a start.

But we echo the state's concern and call for changes and corrective action. The leadership that has failed to lead must be addressed.

As Harry Truman used to say "The buck stops here." And stop it must at ARS.

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