Local administrators ask for veto on EMS bill | TheUnion.com

Local administrators ask for veto on EMS bill

The people behind the red lights of local ambulances are sounding a siren over increased red tape.

Local paramedic groups are asking Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to veto an Assembly bill that would add another layer of regulation to the policy approval process for emergency medical technicians, or EMTs.

The bill is waiting for the governor’s approval.

Alberto Torrico, D-Fremont, introduced the bill – AB 2456 – in February, ostensibly to standardize guidelines for hiring emergency personnel across the state and reviewing the policies put forward by local emergency response agencies.

The bill would add $800,000 to the state’s general fund budget to fund its oversight, according to a report from the Senate’s budget office.

Organizations of emergency responders in the region – including the Sierra Sacramento Valley Emergency Medical Services Agency, which represents EMTs in Nevada, Placer, Yolo, Yuba, Sutter, Butte, Colusa, Tehama, Shasta and Siskiyou counties – already make policies applicable to their regions.

“What this bill will do is tie the hands of local agencies. We have a process we go through to approve policy and protocol for our emergency responders,” said Vickie Pinette, executive director of the Sierra Sacramento Valley EMS agency.

“This could tie our hands for months and months. It may sound like a good idea to streamline policies, but what works in rural Nevada County is much different than in Los Angeles and Sacramento. They may not need the same skill set our paramedics have,” Pinette said.

The Nevada County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to ask Schwarzenegger to veto the bill; the agenda item was offered by District 4 Supervisor Hank Weston.

“What’s being proposed is ridiculous,” Weston said. “I see no reason whatsoever to support this. When somebody has a problem in this state the answer is to create legislation that’s one-brush-paints-all. We happen to have one of the finest EMS systems in the state. If someone has a problem in Northern California, they come to ours to see how we do it. If you’ve got a problem in another county, address it there, but don’t come up to change us.”

The legislation would bill emergency agencies $75 for a background check each time they hire a new EMT, said Penn Valley Fire Chief Gene Vander Plaats.

“We’re not interested in paying more money for anything right now,” said Nevada County Consolidated Fire Chief Tim Fike.

The bill is backed by the California Professional Firefighters Association, the union for about 30,000 firefighters statewide.

“All too often, EMS personnel are required to fulfill certain tasks in their quest to attain or maintain their certification or licensures status in a given county,” association officials said. “Such requirements can often differ by county – mandating that EMS personnel who operate in multiple counties perform additional, varied or sometimes disparate activities, in order to serve as an EMT in more than one county.”

Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Linda, voted against the bill because it would add another level of red tape, he said.

“It’s a bad bill,” Logue said. “It’s a one-size-fits-all bill. It would take authority away from local government and cause the state to have to hire more employees at a time when the private sector is laying people off.

“Where are they going to get the money for this? Out of the business community or the health care community?” Logue said. “I’d rather let the people on the ground in the health care community have the money rather than a bunch of bureaucrats.”

To contact Staff Writer Kyle Magin, e-mail kmagin@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4239.

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