Ban on Four Procedures for Santa Clara County Paramedics Raises Questions About Quality of Emergency Care
A ban enacted last month that prohibits Santa Clara County paramedics from using four "potentially life-saving procedures" has raised concerns about the quality of emergency care in the county, the San Jose Mercury News reports. County emergency workers are banned from administering magnesium sulfate to pregnant women experiencing seizures, offering an antidote for nerve gas, performing pediatric intubations or performing intraosseous infusions. The Emergency Medical Services Authority imposed the ban because the county has failed to hire a medical supervisor; the position has been empty since May. At the time of the ban, county officials said the procedures were "rarely used," but new statistics show that they have been needed dozens of times in the past year, according to the Mercury News. For example, magnesium sulfate treatment was used 22 times over the past year, according to county spokesperson Joy Alexiou. The two pediatric procedures were used 45 times, according to Stacy Rutherford, a steward for Service Employees International Union Local 250, which represents many area paramedics. Alexiou said the treatment ban does not affect the quality of emergency care because the procedures had been used only after all other options had failed, and hospital staff can still administer them. However, emergency workers believe that several patients could have benefited if emergency workers had been able to administer the procedures since the ban took effect, Rutherford said. County officials said they are close to hiring a new medical director, but it still may take months for the ban to be lifted (Sevrens Lyons, San Jose Mercury News, 9/12).
Santa Clara County officials should hire a new medical director to help assuage the perception that the county "misled" the state about the status of the position, a Mercury News editorial states. The ban on the procedures is a "clear message" that the new director should "mend the [county's] damaged relationship with the state" and "work to reinstate the four potentially life-saving medical procedures the county's 800 paramedics are now barred from performing," the editorial concludes (San Jose Mercury News, 9/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.