Charleston County’s chief paramedic was fired Monday in the wake of a self-published book that described some EMS employees as “life-sucking, energy-draining bags of annoying hell.”
Don Lundy has served as the county’s EMS director since 2000 but had been on paid administrative leave for the past two weeks. On July 4, he self-published “Paramedic of the Heart: True Stories of Lives Changed” on Amazon.com, according to a webpage for the book.
Lundy said he is bewildered about the reason given Monday for the termination, but he wouldn’t say what prompted the move. The county also has not specified why he was placed on leave or let go.
“I am shocked and saddened at the action taken today by the county,” Lundy said. “I have never spoken poorly about any of my current employees and the quote, taken out of context from my book, does not reflect either directly or indirectly on any of my team members.”
The 62-year-old said Charleston County EMS has a “tremendous group of professionals, who are awesome in every way.” He added that he has always spoken highly of them and will continue to do so.
“CCEMS has been nationally recognized as an outstanding department, and I stand with them as part of that team,” Lundy said.
The county “initiated the separation, which is effective immediately,” a Monday media release states. Lundy earned a salary of about $112,860.
The search for a replacement will begin soon, according to the county. Deputy Administrator of Community Services Christine DuRant will serve as interim director until the position is filled.
“In the meantime, measures are being taken to ensure EMS will continue providing the best service to our citizens,” said County Administrator Keith Bustraan.
The county has not publicly addressed Lundy’s book. When he was placed on paid administrative leave earlier this month, county spokesman Shawn Smetana would only say that it was temporary “while the county investigates an internal human resources matter.”
Available for download on Amazon’s Kindle tablets for $9.95 or in paperback for $17.96, Lundy’s 314-page book contains personal accounts from his “40 years of helping people at their lowest times” as a paramedic, the author said in his description. The biographical advice book also encourages readers to follow their dreams and “go do something fantastic.”
But a portion addresses the bad attitudes that Lundy noticed in what he first said were six employees at four different departments. The book goes on to mention specifics about only four workers, but they are not named.
He wrote of an overweight 40-something emergency medical technician who makes light of epilepsy patients suffering seizures, a worker who expresses contempt for authority, an overly emotional employee and a paramedic struggling with self-confidence shortcomings.
“They are life-sucking, energy-draining bags of annoying hell,” the author wrote. “And, for their own misgivings, everyone around them must suffer.”
Lundy has fought increased criticism from his employees since September, when the county converted the department’s remaining 24-hour shifts to 12 hours. Employees accustomed to the trade-offs for working longer days — more overtime pay and consecutive days off — grew unhappy, and they raised concerns that the change was affecting ambulance response times. One sent an anonymous email about it to local officials.
At least four of 170 employees quit because of the switch. The county hired more paramedics to make up for the change.
In an interview earlier this year, Lundy chalked up the complaints to employees with lingering resentment about the shift change.
He declined Monday to answer any questions about his future plans.
Reach Melissa Boughton at 937-5594 or at Twitter.com/mboughtonPC.