Legislative offices on Capitol Hill were filled yesterday with 145 EMS providers advocating for three issues near and dear to their hearts. These providers joined in Washington, D.C. yesterday as part of the second annual EMS on the Hill Day.
The National Association of EMTs (NAEMT) created and led the event, which is in its second year. NAEMT President Connie Meyer said the 145 participants came from 39 states, as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.
“We visited 217 congressional offices today. We walked our heels off," Meyer said from the Wednesday night participant reception.
NAEMT chose three issues for the providers to focus on. These three issues were 1) expanding public safety officer benefits to non-governmental EMTs and paramedics, 2) allocating D-Block spectrum for public safety and funding the build-out of the network and 3) passing the Medicare Ambulance Access Preservation Act.
In addition to plugging for the issues, providers put EMS front and center with their presence.
"I hope they will have this event year after year as I felt the goal of EMS having a voice in Washington was met," said attendee David Aber, NREMT-P, a 2010 EMS 10: Innovators in EMS winner. "A few of us were walking down a side street and a Secret Service officer rolled down his window and said, 'Can I ask you a question? What are all these EMS people doing around here today?' Relieved, I told him and realized that we were seen."
Meyer, who is a registered nurse, paramedic and EMS captain of Johnson County (Kansas) Med-Act, said she personally visited everyone in the Kansas delegation.
“The fact that we walked in in uniform opened a lot of doors b/c we were very recognizable as EMS practitioners,” she added.
She said this year, sizes of groups of providers meeting with their legislators were kept at three to six. People from neighboring states with only one representative, were combined and providers from states with a large number of representatives were split up.
"The overall picture we got was that of willingness and wantingness to do everything possible for EMS, but finding funding in the tough economic times is the hurdle faced by all," Aber said.
According to the NAEMT, EMS on the Hill Day 2011 sponsors included the American Ambulance Association, EMS World, OnStar, 5.11 Tactical, American Heart Association, Frazer, Gold Cross, Masimo, Physio Control, EVS, Ltd., and Page, Wolfberg & Wirth, LLC.
"It was a great time and eye opening for both elected officials and attendees," Aber said.