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UPDATE | WVOEMS rescinds memo that ordered unlicensed fire departments to stop EMT services

A memo from the interim director of the West Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services says...
A memo from the interim director of the West Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services says fire departments who are operating with EMTs, and basic life support treatment without obtaining a particular license must stop the services immediately.(Michel Curi / CC BY 2.0)
Published: Sep. 19, 2020 at 8:46 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - UPDATE 9/19/20 @ 10:55 p.m.

A memo from the interim director of the West Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services that halted fire departments from operating as EMTs without having a particular license has been rescinded.

DHHR officials sent WSAZ a copy of the latest memo dated for Saturday, hours after we first reported about the original memo that was sent out Friday.

“The WVOEMS values and appreciates the work that our first responders perform every day and will work in an expedited manner with these agencies to assist them in reviewing any required licensure in order to continue to keep our communities safe and healthy.”

WSAZ obtained the original memo Saturday evening that said fire departments who are operating with EMTs, and basic life support treatment without obtaining a particular license must stop the services immediately.

We spoke with Hurricane Fire Chief Deron Wilkes Saturday evening who criticized the original order saying lives would be in danger.

A copy of the memo rescinding the order is below.

A copy of the memo rescinding a previous order from the WVOEMS.
A copy of the memo rescinding a previous order from the WVOEMS.(WSAZ)

ORIGINAL STORY 9/19/20 @ 8:45 p.m.

A memo from the interim director of the West Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services says fire departments who are operating with EMTs, and basic life support treatment without obtaining a particular license must stop the services immediately.

The three page memo obtained by WSAZ says, “it is a violation of 64CSR48 to carry or provide medication and/or treatment to a patient as is indicated in the WVOEMS Medical Treatment Protocols, unless the organization providing care is a licensed WVOEMS agency. Doing so is considered practicing medicine outside of your scope of practice.”

According to the memo from Vicki Hildreth, this includes treatments with medications for “patients with dyspnea, Oxygen, Nitroglycerine, Epinephrine for allergic reactions, and even securing a patient’s airway with advanced airway modalities.”

“The vast majority of rapid response services provided across the state is provided by fire departments who are not independently licensed but operate under an affiliation agreement with a transporting EMS agencies,” said Hurricane Fire Chief Deron Wilkes. “Ms. Hildreth has told several people that if EMTs from a non-independently licensed fire department are on scene of an emergency the only care those EMTs can render are CPR and the use of an AED - they are not permitted to stop bleeding or administer Narcan to an overdose or any other lifesaving maneuver.”

The memo was sent to departments Friday. It says “all EMS Personnel must be employed by a Licensed WV EMS agency under the direction of a West Virginia Licensed Medical Director.” It also highlights the channels a department must follow to obtain a proper license.

“For the last 25+ years, fire departments have been permitted to provide EMS rapid response services under an affiliation agreement,” Wilkes told WSAZ. “In 2011, this ability was removed from the rule, intentionally or due to an oversight, I am not sure, but the practice has been permitted to continue and was included in the most recent edition of the Licensure Manual, which provides guidance to EMS agencies on all licensure issues."

He claims the manual was removed from the WVOEMS Friday.

Wilkes is encouraging others in the community to call lawmakers, local city leaders, and county commissioners to address the issue, and says lives are on the line with this new ruling.

“There is no doubt that people will needlessly suffer and even die because of this abrupt termination of these services,” said Wilkes. “I would like to see this policy rescinded and either reinstate the affiliation agreement method or at least provide a 12-month period to allow fire departments to become licensed.”

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