The Laws EMS Gets vs. The Laws EMS Needs

For too long, EMS has struggled in anonymity with insufficient attention from state lawmakers. The good news is that state officials are finally giving EMS some long-awaited attention, but the bad news is that, unfortunately, much of that attention is misdirected to single-incident-based issues and not on addressing serious and persistent underlying issues plaguing EMS. . Here are three recently enacted state laws.

1. Legislation for common sense and human decency

EMTs and paramedics, as well as cops and firefighters, who post a photo of a crime victim online can now be charged with a misdemeanor in New York City. The origin of this new law dates back to 2009, when Caroline Wimmer was murdered in her home. An EMT who responded to the scene posted images of his body on Facebook.

Lexipol Editorial Director Greg Friese outlines what you can do to help your state legislators focus on the real and important issues that impact the survival of every EMS agency.

Lexipol Editorial Director Greg Friese outlines what you can do to help your state legislators focus on the real and important issues that impact the survival of every EMS agency. (Photo/Getty Images)

I’m definitely opposed to anyone in public safety sharing a photo of a crime victim, outside of their authorized uses for investigation and patient care, but I don’t think we need a law for what should be common sense, already prohibited by departmental policy and a violation of basic human decency.

2. Legislation that makes work more difficult

A new Arizona law, drafted by state Rep. Amish Shah, a physician, is trying to stop paramedics from forcing patients out of hospital. The likely impact of the law, which prohibits paramedics from diagnosing patients, is to make it harder to assess and treat patients with minor ailments. HB 2431, based on an encounter a colleague of Shah’s had with EMS, directs paramedics not to make a diagnosis, follow their protocols, and not advise a patient to refuse transport, but to make sure that patients know the risks of refusing transport. Are you as confused as me? EMS1 columnists David Givot, Rob Lawrence and Matt Zavadsky do their best to unravel the practical implications of this confusing new law.

3. Legislation that removes local control

Finally, the Colorado legislature responded to the tragic death of Elijah McClain by imposing new requirements for the use of ketamine, including patient weighing. There must be consequences for doctors who violate their department’s protocols and the investigation is ongoing, with two paramedics facing criminal charges for their actions. But legislative requirements for prehospital drug administration, rather than local medical control, put doctors and their patients who could benefit from ketamine at risk.

When Colorado’s new law went into effect, Scott Sholes, president of the Colorado Emergency Medical Services Association, told a local news station, “The consequences of this bill, likely unforeseen and by the Colorado General Assembly, will have a significant impact on our ability to safely treat and transport mental health patients and other life-threatening patients.

Legislation needed for the most important EMS challenges

EMS providers in Arizona, Colorado, and New York are updating their training, policies, and protocols in response to these new laws for two reasons. The first reason is the erosion of public trust that results from wrongdoing. The wrongdoings and potentially criminal actions of one or two EMS vendors left existing processes for investigation and adjudication appear to be inadequate. Perhaps, and even worse, the public loses confidence when it perceives that departments have not learned from their incidents or anticipated new risks to make changes in training, policies and discipline.

The second reason is that for years the EMS has been absent or under-represented in the political arena. The presence of EMS subjects in committee hearings of legislators or discussions on the floor of state houses is welcome and necessary. Unfortunately, recent EMS legislation has not had a significant impact on the real challenges facing the profession. Every state’s EMS needs laws that:

  • Recognize EMS as an essential service and fund EMS as if it were an essential service.

  • Addressing persistent repayment issues that have steadily escalated amid a pandemic, high inflation, and crisis-level staffing.

  • Activate and fund the Emergency Triage, Treatment, and Transport (ET3) model that allows participating EMS agencies to provide on-site treatment and transport patients to other destinations.

Lawmakers need to hear from you

Here’s what you can do to help your state legislators focus on the real and important issues that impact the survival of every EMS agency.

  • Run for office. NAEMT is offering its first policy academy at this year’s Pinnacle EMS conference.

  • Support candidates who support EMS. Support skilled and friendly EMS candidates with donations, campaign volunteerism, and most importantly, your vote.

  • Join professional associations. Become a member of state and national organizations that represent and advocate for EMS.

  • Show up for EMS. The annual NAEMT EMS on Hill Day and similar state-level events connect EMS professionals with their elected officials.

  • Write to your legislators. Your state and federal officials need to hear from you about the EMS issues that matter most to the survival of the profession.

For EMS to survive, we don’t need more laws that legislate common sense, confuse or take away local authority because of a single incident. Instead, we need legislators who recognize EMS as an essential service, provide funding for growing patient volume and acuity, and allow reimbursement for new service models.

Comments are closed.