I-Team: Unlicensed Medical Company Workers Doing Respiratory Therapist Duties
BOSTON (CBS) - They are providing care for fragile, sick people in their homes, many of whom are elderly or disabled.
But the I-Team found some of these health care providers should not be doing what they’re doing.
Our investigation reveals a well-known medical company may be breaking the law and possibly endangering the welfare of the patients it’s paid to serve.
WBZ-TV cameras captured employees of North Atlantic Medical Services going into people’s homes and delivering sophisticated equipment to patients with serious breathing problems.
These employees are doing the work of licensed respiratory therapists, but here’s the catch: the I-Team has confirmed none of them is licensed by the state as required by law.
We confronted one of those employees as she left her house and told her we were working on a story about her company using unlicensed people.
We asked her if she is a respiratory therapist.
Maria Aguilera needs a machine to keep her breathing safely at night and one was installed in her home by another unlicensed employee from North Atlantic Medical.
Aguilera says the man did not show her a license. She just assumed he had one.
Of course, we wanted to talk to the owner of North Atlantic Medical, Cabot Carabott. In an email, he admitted that unlicensed people are used by his company, but claimed only on rare occasions.
Carabott would not agree to sit down and talk to us on camera, so we caught up with him as he arrived at work one morning:
I-Team: “You admitted that you occasionally do use unlicensed people to do the job.”
I-Team: “And that would be a violation of state law?”
Carabott: “I don’t believe so.”
I-Team: “You don’t believe so?”
Carabott: “No, not in an emergency.”
I-Team: “Not in an emergency? Well, you don’t think that would be putting patients at risk?”
I-Team: “Would you like to find a time when we could sit down?”
Carabott: “Just you and I, one-on-one, any day.”
I-Team: ” What about with the camera?”
Carabott: “No way.”
The I-Team reviewed internal company records which reveal unlicensed, lower-paid employees are routinely sent to do this critical work, including what is known as the “The Initial Assessment and Plan of Service and Medical Supply.”
That investigation by the I-Team has now triggered a formal investigation of North Atlantic Medical by the Department of Public Health, officials say.
“I would worry about safety; I would worry about safety for the patients,” says Martha DeSilva, program director and chairperson of the Respiratory Care Department at Massasoit Community College.
For those studying for a career in respiratory therapy, Massasoit runs a demanding two-year academic program.
“It’s really strenuous, actually,” says junior Lisa Delgado. “We spend a lot of time in class, in lab. We also do online classwork and it’s about four to five hours of homework a night.”
If they graduate, students still have to pass national boards and then go through a lengthy process to get a license from the state.
“It’s so critical,” says DeSilva of the education process.
You can follow Joe on Twitter at @JoeWBZ