(WJBK) - Two Detroit EMTs were getting blamed for a racially insensitive joke at the expense of a patient, but they insisted they didn't do it. Now, the hospital is accepting responsibility.
An African American John Doe was admitted to the hospital, so we are told the hospital generated a name for him. Watermelon.
"We know it is wildly inappropriate to use that kind of language that is wildly insensitive. Many individuals, including the Detroit Firefighting Association, are very saddened by the fact they decided to name someone Watermelon," said Sgt. Bill Harp, Union Vice President of the Detroit Firefighters Association.
It was being called “Watermelon 2.0" after Harp says two of his new EMTs were wrongly targeted by the top brass of the Detroit Fire Department.
It started last Thursday after a man attacked a Detroit police officer, who then shot the suspect multiple times. Two new EMTs were the ones who rushed to the scene on Burt Street, and rushed the patient to Beaumont's Botsford Hospital in Farmington Hills.
They didn't know his name, so that's why the hospital generated one for him.
"The issue came, in today's day and age, Botsford Health System decided to name this individual and 'Mwatermelon Undoe,'" Harp said. "Which, as I understand it now - after the Union conducted an investigation on behalf of our members - was part of a computer-generated program that names an individual who's brought in that can't speak for themselves."
Given the scandal last fall when another new Detroit firefighter was fired from the department after bringing a watermelon as a welcome gift into his new fire station - it didn't take long for upper management to hear about what happened. Especially since in this recent case, the man who was shot is black and the two new EMTs are white.
"The challenge comes in the EMTs, when doing their patient care report, utilized the name the hospital gave this individual," Harp said. "So, in their report they re-transcribed the name 'Mwatermelon Undoe' and that tripped a huge problem within the upper management of the Detroit Fire Department."
Harp claims instead of asking the EMTs about it, they were immediately placed on administrative duty and forced to deal with the accusations that would follow.
"The real issue for us is how our members were treated by upper management," Harp said. "They were never even asked, how did this name came about? They were treated as they were racist, that they did something wrong."
FOX 2 reached out to Fire Commissioner Eric Jones about what happened. He says the department conducted an investigation and determined it was appropriate to return the EMTs to full duty.
So if it is the fault of the hospital - how did Botsford determine the offensive name? Was it an automatic computer system, or did someone intentionally enter the name?
"Botsford needs to take a look at how they are doing this," Harp said. "The fire department needs to understand that these events can happen and give our personnel in the field the ability to not be thrusted into using an inappropriate name that a hospital chooses."
Botsford responded with a statement late Tuesday:
"The computer system automatically generates a name for John Doe patients. The first name is randomly assigned from a list of colors and fruits; the last name is drawn from a list of states."
The spokesperson continued by saying they "have never heard of a situation like this and they are modifying the system. Beaumont regrets this misunderstanding and any offense it may have caused."