BOYD COUNTY, Kentucky (WSAZ) – A bill introduced Jan. 13 in the Kentucky state legislature has EMS workers in an uproar.
“It’s going to take us back 20 years to how EMS operates in Kentucky,” said Chuck Cremeans, executive director of Boyd County EMS.
House Bill 296 calls for two major changes.
The first, setting a maximum response time of 60 minutes for hospital patient transfers.
Cremeans says most of these transfers are non-surface, and that would deter crews from responding to emergency calls.
“Then for the person out there in the public who needs something right away, there’s going to be an ambulance shortage because that can very well be life-threatening and they don’t get care until the ambulance gets there,” Cremeans said.
He says they are already struggling with staffing issues and have responded to 10,558 emergency calls in 2021.
“If you add to that a transfer here and a transfer there that we have to take care of, then who will be available to cover for the citizens?” he asked.
Travis Burton of the Kentucky Hospital Association says the response time requirement would be a welcome change.
“Patients are in hospital care, have to go to another facility, and have to wait a long time, seven, eight, up to 14 hours,” Burton said. “Kentucky has a problem, and Kentucky does things differently than almost everyone else.”
Data from the Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services shows that about 93% of all emergency transports last year were transported within 60 minutes.
KBEMS reports that 85% of all transfers were non-emergency and only 6.7% of non-emergency transfers had a response time greater than 60 minutes.
“You can’t just take away from the public to offer this service if it’s not an emergency. If it’s an emergency now, critical, yes, then we have to try to get there as soon as possible,” Cremeans said. “Are there times when they wait longer than an hour? Yes, but there are only so many ambulances and crew available.”
Burton says the bill ensures that all resources are available to care for patients and that patients are transported in a timely manner.
“Their priority is absolutely 911 calls, but a lot of the calls that come in for transportation are 911 calls, too,” Burton said.
The bill also calls for regulation to be returned from the KBEMS to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, where it was until 2006.
“Any other healthcare facility in Kentucky; hence their regulation and oversight,” Burton said.
Cremeans fears the change in oversight will make matters worse, as it gives people other than rescue workers the power to approve or deny protocols.
“It’s going from a board made up of EMS professionals to a board made up mostly of bureaucrats and other professions unrelated to EMS,” Cremeans told WSAZ. “It takes us to two representatives on an advisory committee that has no legal authority to make regulations or govern EMS.
He says this bill will give the Cabinet Inspector General the power to approve or disapprove protocols written by physicians, even if that person is not a physician. He also says they don’t work like hospitals and nursing homes.
“They don’t understand that they could force us into situations where we would lose reimbursement from Medicare, Medicaid and other insurance, which would drastically cut our budgets,” Cremeans said.
Burton emphasized that all healthcare professionals belong to the same team.
“At the end of the day, everyone wants the same thing, to take care of patients and save patients’ lives,” he said.
The bill is still in committee.
Cremeans is asking anyone with concerns or questions about the bill to contact the Boyd County Office of Emergency Services.
The Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services also provided the following statement to WSAZ.
The Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services is concerned that passage of House Bill 296 in its current form will set Kentucky’s emergency departments back decades. We have made tremendous improvements to EMS and will continue to do so. We know there is still progress to be made, but to move forward we must all be willing to work together. We want and are ready to do just that. It is important to work together and ensure that a variety of EMS professionals and stakeholders are heard so that we can continue to find EMS solutions together and not create more challenges.
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