California Emergency Medical Services Hurt by Lack of Oversight
California's system for regulating emergency medical responders suffers from a lack of oversight and other inadequacies that pose a potential hazard to the public, the Los Angeles Times reports.
A Times investigation found lapses in the state's system for handling disciplinary matters with paramedics and emergency medical technicians, problems that are aggravated by California being the only state without a centralized licensing process for EMTs.
Paramedics are accountable to the state Emergency Medical Services Authority, but EMTs are accountable only to regional authorities, causing wide inconsistencies in how misconduct is handled, according to the Times.
Investigators reviewed all regulatory actions taken against paramedics and EMTs in California from 2000 to 2006. The Times found that:
- There is no coherent system for reporting problems or processing complaints that could lead to discipline of paramedics and EMTs;
- Numbers and types of disciplinary actions vary widely across regions;
- Inadequate communication is prevalent among regulators and within fire departments; and
- Regulators are slow to take disciplinary action when problems are identified.
The Times notes that since the investigation, the EMSA in February notified all fire departments, ambulance companies and regional regulators that they legally are required to report internal disciplinary matters of paramedics and EMTs related to patient care, substance abuse, criminal convictions and other issues (Connell/Lopez, Los Angeles Times, 5/6). 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.