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Priority Traffic: A virtual front seat to all the EMS Today action

Issue 5 and Volume 34.

Despite a flagging economy, more than 4,000 people attended the 2009 EMS Today Conference & Exposition in Baltimore, Md., March 24Ï28. Their effort did not go unrewardedƒattendees enjoyed thought-provoking discussions, fruitful networking opportunities and a crowd-pleasing JEMS Games final scenario.

After two days of preconference sessions,Suzanne Frey Sherwood,RN, MS, TNS, EMT-P, opened the conference with a look at famous figures in historyƒsuch as Abraham Lincoln and Princess Dianaƒand whether they could have been saved by modern medicine.„

Several awards were handed out at the opening ceremonies.John P. Pryor,MD, FACS, an EMS physician andJEMSeditorial board member who was killed Christmas Day in Iraq, was posthumously given the first award in his name bythe Street Medicine Societyfor exceptional contributions by a street medicine physician; accepting the award was his brother, Richard Pryor, MD.Thom Dickaccepted the Excellence in EMS Journalism Award, presented byJEMS founding editor Keith Griffiths, for decades of challenging the status quo and looking out for providers_ health and well-being in the pages ofJEMS. The winners of theEMS 10: Innovators in EMS Award(sponsored by Physio-Control andJEMS) were also announced.„

On Friday, the exhibit hall opened, featuring for the first time a learning center where exhibitors hosted informative sessions. A total of 252 exhibitors were on hand. Later that night, the three JEMS Games finalist teamsƒVirtua Health (N.J.), Sussex County (Del.) EMS and Miami-Dade (Fla.) Fire Rescueƒduked it out, caring for multiple victims in a bar fight scenario that involved five critical patients. The continuing education session, delivered byJEMS Medical EditorEd Dickinson,MD, included compelling images of eviscerations and penetrating trauma.

At the closing ceremonies Saturday morning,Miami-Dade Fire Rescuetook home the gold for their performance in the JEMS Games. Thom Dick received a second award, this time the prestigious James O. Page/JEMS Leadership Award, and the winners of the Prehospital Care Research Forum were announced. The honor for best research went toMelissa Bentley,BS, NREMT-P, and the winner for best oral presentation wasChristopher Shane Henderson,AS, EMT-P. The city of Edmonton, Canada, received theNicholas Rosecrans Awardfor excellence in injury prevention, presented by EPIC Medics Inc. and Lynn Artz, for its senior falls prevention program. Finally,Steve Berry,BA, NREMT-P, wrapped up the conference by telling the crowd how he_d redesign their EMS agency, with plenty of humorous cartoons thrown in as usual.

If you missed this year_s conference, or just can_t wait for EMS Today 2010, mark your calendars for March 2Ï6 in Baltimore.

Ford Agrees to $30 Million Ambulance Settlement
If your service has any 2003Ï2007 ambulances built on a Ford chassis with a 6.0-L diesel engine, you_ve probably had problems with them. If so, your service should soon get a letter with some welcome news. Ford Motor Co. has agreed to spend some $30 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of the nation_s ambulance services. The lawsuit cites such problems as poor air-conditioning performance, failure to withstand long idling periods, difficulty in starting the engine and engine stalling.

“We_re going to get the names and addresses of all registered owners [from Ford], and send them a notice the first or second week of May,” says Cory Fein, an attorney with the Houston-based law firm Caddell & Chapman. “They don_t need to do anything at all if they want to participate. They can just start submitting their claims to the claims center.” (A service that wants to pursue a different legal remedy with Ford must specifically opt out of this settlement.)

The complex settlement involves two basic components: first, reimbursement for prior repairs and expenses and for prior and future engine replacement and, second, an extension of the warranty. This means, Fein says, “They can take it in for service for another year or an extra 20,000 milesƒand longer for certain components.” Ford will also pay or reimburse agencies for towing charges and for such expenses as employee time spent on repairs and lost revenue or profits.„

Five ambulance services (in Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina and Pennsylvania) filed the lawsuit through three law firms. Those services will split an extra $35,000 for their efforts. The attorneys are asking the court for an additional $3.6 million in fees from Ford, but ambulance services will pay them nothing.ƒMannie Garza

Pro Bono
To Snitch orNot to Snitch?
I witnessed a co-worker committing a minor crime. Am I legally obligated to report this to my employer? Can my employer terminate me for a “failure to tattle?” Am I legally required to report my suspicions that something illegal has occurred, or must I know for certain?

These questions have plagued many an EMS provider over the years. You might be surprised to find that in most cases, the answer is “no.” Unless a specific law requires it, an employee is not legally required to report minor crimes committed by co-workersƒeven if those crimes reflect on the person_s honesty, integrity or ability to perform the job. Of course, whether there_s a moral or ethical “duty” to report illegal conduct is another question altogether.„

Be aware, however, that some state laws do require that certain serious crimes be reported. For instance, many states have laws that require anyone who comes into contact with children in the course of their profession or job duties to report suspected child abuse. Most of these laws provide immunity protections to individuals who report these suspicions, as long as the reports are made in good faith. Other state laws may require reporting in other specific types of situations (e.g., domestic violence, elder abuse, burns, gunshot wounds or other potentially serious concerns). However, these laws vary by state and generally apply only to certain health-care providers in their capacity as providersƒnot as co-workers.

A couple of other thoughts to consider when deciding whether to “snitch” on a co-worker for potentially unlawful conduct are:

  • First, be sure to check your personnel handbook or employer_s policies to determine if you_re required to notify your employer of illegal conduct by a co-worker.
  • Second, if you_re a member of a union, consult your collective bargaining agreement to determine if such provisions are present. If a work rule of your employer requires such disclosure and an employee fails to adhere to the rule, it could constitute grounds for discipline against the employee who fails to report.„
  • Finally, if you observe illegal conduct that could endanger the public (e.g., illegal drug use or drinking on the job), remember that our top priority is to protect the public welfare.„„

Every EMS provider should consider speaking up in a situation that could put lives at risk.

Pro Bono is written by attorneysDoug WolfbergandSteve WirthofPage,Wolfberg & Wirth LLC, a national EMS-industry law firm. Visit the firm_s Web site atwww.pwwemslaw.comfor more EMS law information.

Disaster TrailersPrepare Rural Areas
Several states have purchased trailers stocked with EMS supplies and positioned them strategically to prepare for mass casualty incidents (MCIs).

The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services and its EMS program recently used federal grants to purchase 17 trailers fully equipped and stocked for medical disasters and stationed them in rural areas statewide.„

The Nevada EMS office worked with county emergency managers and local EMS agencies and fire departments to place the trailers in its 16 counties and on one reservation.„

Each 20′ trailer includes 100 cardboard backboards (each capable of holding a 500-lb. patient), mesh stretchers, C-collars, trauma dressings, triage tags, bandages and splinting materials, oxygen tanks, disposable blankets, tarps, body bags, vests, traffic cones, strobe lights and even a megaphone.„

“We did this because we identified a serious lack of equipment in rural communities to respond to a CBRNE [chemical, radiological, nuclear, biological or explosive] incident to treat a large number of casualties,” says Nevada EMS Director Fergus Laughridge. “We may not have the big disaster that makes CNN, but we have tour and casino buses with 40 people traveling through, or an Amtrak train may go off the track in rural Nevada.”„

Laughridge initiated the project after touring a mobile hospital at an EMS conference. “I began walking around the exhibit hall picking stuff we_d need, but then I [learned] EMS Innovations had fully equipped trailers,” he says.

According to Joseph Ferko III, DO, MS, the emergency physician who founded EMS Innovations in 1997, Georgia has also purchased several disaster trailers and Alabama has bought 89, including mortuary trailers, pharmacy trailers, “decon” trailers, mobile clinics and mobile hospitals.„

“We have 10 mobile medical stations, each contained in three 28′ trailers, and additional surge trailers at hospitals,” says Andy Mullins, director of emergency preparedness for the Alabama Department of Public Health.„

Although Alabama has placed most of its trailers in urban areas, he says, “One benefit of using trailers is that they can be pulled to anywhere we need them. We can have the first one to anywhere in the state in two hours.”

Ferko, a formerJEMSeditorial board member, says, “Most states are placing these trailers in rural areas to provide a base of operations while more help is arriving. Rural areas are also the perfect place to put equipment and supplies to bring into urban areas in the case of a pandemic or other large scale emergency.”ƒMG

For more EMS Today coverage,

Pediatric Disaster Preparedness resource:

In Brief: Federal recommendations for National Emergency Evacuation System

Decon guide:„