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The Last Word

LW-01-08

Thumbs Down: Federal Fools
Although AEDS are now standard equipment in nearly every airport in the„U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) won't allow them in air traffic control centers. After U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., wrote to the agency complaining about the policy, FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory told the, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune that the agency had been reviewing the issue for several years and had concerns about the liability of allowing AEDs in places without a medical office.

This is nonsense. The travelers are protected while on the ground and in the air because AEDs are required in every terminal and every plane. But air-traffic controllers -- who have one of the most stressful jobs in the world, which puts them at high risk of cardiac arrest -- aren't protected. The FAA needs to get their heads out of the clouds and AEDs on the wall in every control tower.

Thumbs Up: Feds Fund Squad
When the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the 2008 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Act (LHEAA) Nov. 6, it included $400,000 to build a new station for the Stony Point (N.Y.) Ambulance Corps. This rescue squad, which provides free prehospital care to four small communities in RocklandCounty, apparently has excellent relations with its congressman, John Hall, D-N.Y. Way to go, Stony Point Ambulance Corps! But...

Thumbs Down: Feds Fund One Squad at a Time
We find it sad that most rural services haven't received a dime in federal funding, and national„EMS organizations are fighting an uphill battle to get funding for programs that would benefit all ambulance services, while one service lands $400,000. For example, Advocates for EMS worked hard to get the House to include $750,000 in its 2008 budget for the National EMS Information System (and was unable to get the Senate to cough up anything for national data collection), and the House declined to give a cent to fund the federal Office of Trauma-EMS (although it eventually went along with the Senate's plan to appropriate $3 million for that program). The entire bill went back to the drawing board, anyway, after the president vetoed it. But„EMS surely won't fair any better with a new, leaner bill. So„EMS leaders will work for more next year.

Thumbs Down: Volunteer Squad Must Transport Prisoners
The„Maine Supreme Judicial Court recently ruled that a volunteer ambulance service responsible for covering a community of 4,000 must also serve the 1,000 prisoners and some 400 employees of two prisons the state opened in the town in 2002. (Download the decision in„Town of„Warren Ambulance Service v. Department of Public Safety,„Maine„EMS at„www.courts.state.me.us/opinions/2007%20documents/07me120wa.pdf.)

The town had unsuccessfully sought a waiver from the state, expressing concern that serving the prisons could endanger volunteers and noting that MaineCare pays only $90 per call plus $2 per mile for each prisoner transport -- much less than the service receives for transporting most other patients.

When the community sued, a lower court ruled for the town, but the state's highest court said the community ˙failed to establish Âextraordinary circumstances_ in support of a waiver.Ó„Maine's highest court also stated that prison inmates and the people who work in and visit prisons are part of ˙the publicÓ within a local ambulance service's primary response area and fall under ambulance service response requirements.

As states build more and more prisons in rural„America, we can only imagine the negative impact on the already declining numbers of„EMS volunteers if they're forced to also serve as an unpaid labor force transporting prisoners and receiving less than their customary payment to do so.

Thumbs Up: Private„Hospital 9/11 Responders Get Benefits
In November, N.Y. Governor Eliot Spitzer signed legislation that provides disability and death benefits to nine private hospital EMTs and paramedics who responded to the World Trade Center in 2001. Four paramedics and one EMT will now receive the enhanced worker's compensation to bring their benefits up to what city-employed first responders receive. Before the legislation passed, they received two-thirds of their salary up to a maximum of $400 per week. The enhanced compensation is an increase of about $20,000 a year. The families of four privately employed EMTs who died that day will also receive an increased death benefit.

Thumbs Up to the N.Y. State Legislature for crafting a bill the governor signed after vetoing three previous attempts.

Tax Relief for Volunteers
Many communities retain EMS and fire service volunteers by offering state or locally paid benefits. But historically, federal income taxes on those benefits diminished their value. On Nov. 6, legislation passed in the U.S. House of Representatives to make some benefits exempt from taxable income. H.R. 3997, the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax (HEART), excludes all property tax benefits and up to $360 a year in other benefits. Thumbs Up to the House for pulling the IRS's hands off these small, but valuable, economic benefits.

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