Colorado Senate hesitates to give paramedics same protection as firefighters and police officers

Operating Roadside

Operating Roadside
Operating Roadside
A 9-1-1 call comes in, a call for an ambulance – quickly! The emergency operator dispatches an ambulance with paramedics, and a police officer. Then she sends the fire department with firefighter-EMTs.

While the paramedics and EMTs are treating the patient, a friend of the patient becomes violent – it happens very frequently. A short-melee breaks out and the assailant clobbers the paramedic with a lamp, fracturing his skull before the police officer can subdue him. The firefighter, trying to protect the paramedic, is hit in the shoulder causing a sever bruise. The police officer is able to take control and handcuff the assailant, but only after sustaining a sprained thumb. Eventually, the patient is stabilized and transported to the hospital by a second ambulance crew, Paramedics on a third ambulance treat the critically injured paramedic and move him to the hospital using lights and siren.

If the assailant that nearly killed the paramedic is convicted of assault, he faces severe felony penalties for injuring the firefighter and police officer. However, for the same attack upon the paramedic, he does not. The penalties for the same crime are different for the emergency responders at the same scene, at the same time.

Nearly half of Colorado’s EMTs and paramedics wear police-style body armor at work. “When the emergency responders carrying high-tech defibrillators and drugs to treat a heart attack need a bullet-proof vest, something is terribly wrong,” said Howard Paul, director of the Emergency Medical Services Association of Colorado, the prime advocate of the bill.

A patient has struck, or taken a swing at nine out of ten EMTs and paramedics surveyed. Special training to avoid violence on the job is now needed to work on an ambulance.

“This is frustrating,” said Colorado State Senator David Balmer after the vote in the Senate State, Military and Veteran Affairs Committee Wednesday. More than sixty paramedics and EMTs listened to testimony about the bill on Monday. The room was packed with uniforms to the point that Chairman Jessie Ulibarri moved the hearing to a larger Capitol hearing room, the Old Supreme Court Chambers.

House Bill 1214, sponsored by Balmer and Representative Cheri Gerou is now stuck awaiting a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, with ten days left in the legislative session. The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee, 11-0, on February 11 and the entire House passed the bill with 51 yes and 11 no votes. Instead of voting to send the bill to the Senate floor for a full vote, the Senate committee Wednesday moved the bill on to the Judiciary Committee, on a party line vote of 3-2.

“We certainly hope Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Lucia Guzman will schedule a hearing and not let the bill die. This is critical to the safety of EMTs and paramedics. And we know the public overwhelmingly agrees the disparity should be fixed,” Paul said.

For further information:
Howard M. Paul
(720) 984-3967

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