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EMS, hospital association at odds over proposed Ky. House bill

Kentucky house bill proposing major changes for EMS providers
Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 6:20 PM EST
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BOYD COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) -- A bill introduced January 13 in the Kentucky legislature has EMS workers in an uproar.

“It will set us back 20 years in how EMS operates in Kentucky,” said Chuck Cremeans, executive director of Boyd County EMS.

House Bill 296 calls for two significant changes.

The first, establishing a 60 minute maximum response time for hospital patient transfers.

Cremeans says most of those transfers are non-emergent and this would take crews away from responding to 911 calls.

“Then, there’s going to be a shortage of ambulances available for that person out there in the public who needs something immediately, because that may very well be life threatening and they’re not getting any care until the ambulance gets there,” said Cremeans.

He says they are already battling staffing issues and in 2021, they responded to 10,558 emergency calls.

“If you add a transfer here and a transfer there to that, that we have to go take, who’s going to be available to go cover for the citizens?” he asked.

Travis Burton with the Kentucky Hospital Association says the response time requirement would be a welcome change.

“Patients are in hospital care, they’re needing to get to another facility, and they’re having to wait a long extended time seven, eight, up to 14 hours,” said Burton. “Kentucky has a problem and Kentucky is doing things differently than almost every one else.”

Data from the Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services shows last year, about 93% of all emergent transfers were transported within 60 minutes.

KBEMS reports 85% of all transfers were non-emergent, and only 6.7% of non-emergent transports had a response time longer than 60 minutes.

“You can’t just take away from the public to provide this service when it’s not an emergency. Now if it’s an emergency, critical, yes, we need to try to get there as fast as we can,” said Cremeans. “Are there times when they do wait longer than an hour? Yes, but there’s only so many ambulances available and so many crews available.”

Burton says the bill is making sure every tool is available to take care of patients, and patients need to be transported in a timely manner.

“Their priority is absolutely emergency calls, but a lot of the calls coming for transports are emergency as well,” said Burton.

The bill is also calling for regulation to be returned from the KBEMS to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, where it was until 2006.

“Every other healthcare facility in Kentucky; that’s where their regulations and their oversight comes from,” said Burton.

Cremeans is worried the oversight change will make things worse, giving authority to approve and deny protocols to people other than EMS professionals.

“It transitions from a board made up of EMS professionals to a board made up of mostly bureaucrats and other professions that are not related to EMS,” Cremeans told WSAZ. “It takes us down to two representatives on an advisory committee that has no legal authority to enact regulations or govern EMS.

He says this bill gives the Inspector General of the cabinet the authority to approve and deny protocols written by doctors, even though that person may not be a physician. He also says they do not operate the same as 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 insurances which would cut our budgets drastically,” said Cremeans.

Burton stressed all healthcare professionals are on the same team.

“At the end of the day everyone wants the same thing for patients to be cared for and for patients lives to be saved,” he said.

The bill is still in committee.

Cremeans asks anyone with concerns or questions about the bill to contact the Boyd County Emergency Services office.

The Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services also provided WSAZ with the following statement.

The Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services has concerns that a passage of House Bill 296 as it is will set Kentucky EMS back decades. We have made, and continue to make, huge improvements to EMS. We realize there’s still progress to be made, but for us to keep moving forward we must all be willing to work together. We want and are ready to do just that. It’s important to collaborate and make sure a variety of EMS experts and stakeholder voices are heard so we can continue to figure out EMS solutions together, not create more challenges.

Michael Poynter, Exec. Dir., Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services

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