EMS Concerns for the Here and Now

BY: KEVIN MCGINNIS

APRIL 15, 2020

It’s April.  My wife’s birthday, and her sister’s…twins! In our family, April Fool’s Day has always demanded a surprise with a playful underpinning. This year, not so much. April Fool and everything upside down in virtually everybody’s lives in one or many ways. I write this while the pandemic wave is about to break in the hottest spots in the country.  In Maine, we’re a bit further away from the crest. Yet, weeks ago, an EMS chief here with substantial foresight scouted local autobody shops for masks when PPE suppliers were showing signs of failing.  However, the shelves had already been cleared out by a local hospital and a county emergency management agency (EMA. Governors in a bidding war on a larger scale in bigger states.  April Fool…

At this particular moment, we have little idea what the final numbers will be on the destructiveness of COVID-19 and what its long-term impacts on EMS colleagues and practices and lessons for us will be.

 

We will find new ways to cope and adapt our EMS and community paramedicine capabilities to the challenges presented. Who thought, while we are practicing social distancing that we would bring in a FirstNet deployable trailer to a San Francisco patient isolation facility so that EMS personnel and healthcare workers could communicate while their patients could continue to use commercial wireless services to talk to family and friends and fight boredom?

 

Photo: FirstNet deployable providing additional communications capacity during COVID-19.

 

Lessons about the pandemic’s impact have been underscored by some 15,000 letters to Congress by EMS professionals as documented by the National Association of EMTs (NAEMT).  The Phase 3 COVID-19 legislation that funded first responder resources such as PPE failed to have any provisions for EMTs and paramedics. My friend and longtime CP-MIH colleague, NAEMT President Matt Zavadsky, cited the areas of concern that remain for us:

 

  • Give priority access to PPE for EMS personnel.
  • Give priority COVID-19 testing to EMS personnel and their families.
  • Give priority access to EMS agencies for vital prehospital medications.
  • Reimburse EMTs and paramedics for the cost of daycare for EMS personnel with children.
  • Reimburse all EMS agencies for overtime wages paid to employees and additional costs necessary to provide EMS during the public health pandemic
  • Provide direct funding to all EMS agencies for ventilators and other needed medical equipment.
  • Provide direct funding to EMS to purchase ambulances.
  • Allow use of the A0998 HCPCS code for EMS to respond and transport to the appropriate healthcare facility, not necessarily the hospital, freeing up hospital beds.
  • Ensure all EMS personnel are covered in all applicable COVID-19 provisions by specifically including Emergency Medical Services Providers and Personnel.

 

Zavadsky and NAEMT are both asking EMS professionals to “post on social media, share your stories, talk to your neighbors, talk to your city councils, call or write your local and state elected officials, and take three minutes to send a note to your Congressional reps using the Online Legislative Service about these issues.

 

Read on to learn more about how telemedicine is evolving during COIVD-19 here with blogs PART 1 and PART 2 on rural and urban EMS provision in the Days of ET3 and COVID-19 – opportunities and lessons.

About Kevin McGinnis

Kevin McGinnis, MPS, Paramedic Service Chief (Ret.) has been an EMS system builder since 1974.  He is the communications technology advisor for five national EMS associations, and program manager for public safety communications, rural EMS and community paramedicine for the National Association of State EMS Officials (NASEMSO).

 

He received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Brown University and Cornell University in health care delivery systems and hospital administration. Kevin has been a paramedic, a paramedic service chief for volunteer, private, and hospital-based services, a hospital emergency department director, and Maine's state EMS director.

 

He is the past Chairman of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's SafeCom Program and continues to serve on its Executive Committee. Kevin is Vice-Chair of the Governing Board of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council and was bestowed its top honor, the Richard DeMello Award, in 2017.

 

Kevin has been an energetic promoter of the nationwide public safety broadband network since 2006. In August, 2015, he was named by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to a second three-year term on the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) Board of Directors and termed out in October, 2018.  He currently serves as the NASEMSO representative to the FirstNet Public Safety Advisory Committee.  In 2018, Kevin received the Journal of EMS “Top Ten Innovator Award” for his FirstNet work.  He was named by the Government Technology/Solutions for State and Local Government magazine as one of its 2013 “Top 25 Doers, Dreamers & Drivers in Public-Sector Innovation”.

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