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EMS Staff Protected in New Bill

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- A bill setting liability protection terms for Pennsylvania's emergency medical services workers was approved Wednesday by a Senate committee.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Baker, R-20, limits EMS workers from being sued for a range of actions taken in good faith unless gross negligence or willful misconduct on their part is proven.

It was approved by the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, of which Ms. Baker serves as chairwoman.

Overall, Ms. Baker's legislation seeks the first revamping of state regulation of the EMS network in 20 years. During that period, the EMS network has shifted from relying primarily on volunteers based in fire departments to becoming mostly professionalized. Some 51,000 Pennsylvanians are employed as first responders, medical technicians paramedics, nurses and physicians in the network.

The legislation recognizes these changes by giving the state Health Department authority to expand the list of jobs, or scope of practice, that EMS employees can undertake, said Ms. Baker.

The bill encourages ambulance squads and quick-response teams to cooperate to provide continuous 24-hour service in areas where it is lacking.

Other provisions would:

-- Require all EMS agencies to have a medical director.

-- Provide for emergency suspension of an EMS certificate of an individual who presents a clear and immediate danger to the public and automatic suspension if an individual is judged incompetent by the court.

The bill stems from a legislative report four years ago that recommended a number of changes to modernize Pennsylvania's fire protection and EMS network. State Health Department officials have held more than 50 local meetings to brief EMSworkers about the bill.

The Ambulance Association of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Medical Society and Pennsylvania Fire and Emergency Services Institute are among statewide groups supporting the bill.

Ms. Baker anticipates a Senate floor vote on her bill before the fall session ends. A companion bill is in the House.

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