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Legislative package aims to boost rural EMS

Tuesday, December 10, 2019   (0 Comments)
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December 10 - Wisconsin Health News

A new legislative package aims to support rural emergency medical service providers.

Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, began circulating the measures last week for co-sponsorship with Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, and five GOP Assembly lawmakers.

Marklein said in a statement that the bills are based on four summits he held with local EMS volunteers this fall.

“This package of rural EMS legislation is a small step toward supporting our local, rural volunteer EMS providers,” Marklein said in a statement. “It removes some obstacles, improves state-level regulation and makes the funding whole.”

One plan would provide an additional $239,800 in state money annually to the Funding Assistance Program, which gives ambulance service providers the only state money they receive. The increase will allow EMS services to buy equipment and compensate members for training.

Another bill makes a series of changes, like clarifying a recent state law allowing an ambulance service provider to upgrade its service level to the highest level of an EMS practitioner staffing the ambulance. The plan would clarify that a practitioner can perform up to their certification, but the ambulance doesn’t have to be stocked to that highest level.

The bill also allows ambulances to be staffed with one emergency medical technician and a driver with CPR certification for low-risk transports, like transporting patients between nursing homes and hospitals for dialysis. 

Another part of the bill streamlines the process of applying for the Funding Assistance Program. And it also bars EMS departments from prohibiting their employees or volunteers from working with another department.  

Marklein said he was "shocked" to hear that some large EMS departments bar their employees from volunteering for volunteer departments.

“They say that they worry about the person getting hurt," he said in a statement. "I would wager that a person is more likely to get hurt playing church league softball than dedicating their considerable skill, talent and knowledge to saving the life of their neighbors.”

A final bill would make passing the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians exam optional for emergency medical responders, the lowest EMS licensure level in the state. Individual departments would be able to decide whether the test is required. 

Responders would have to complete a DHS-approved training course and pass all tests and hands-on learning experiences to receive a license.   

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