Oneida Fire Chief Donald Hudson has been a vocal opponent of a procedure he thinks is compromising urgent and emergent patient care. He's been asking the Madison County Board of Supervisors to refuse participation in a "priority dispatch" process being "recommended" by the emergency services oversight body, Midstate EMS.
After Hudson demonstrated a potential failure by the Board of Supervisors to follow its own policies, the Criminal Justice/Public Safety/Telecommunications Committee voted to direct E-911 Communications Director Paul Hartnett to get the word out that the procedure is to stop until further notice.
Priority dispatch is a procedure that allows dispatchers to dictate whether a medical call is a priority one call requiring lights and sirens or priority two, no lights or sirens. Hudson said medical personnel train for many years to make those sorts of evaluations when they are on the scene with a patient and can't understand how non-medical staff can make those sorts of diagnoses over the phone.
"We're asking non-medical people to evaluate patients over the phone in a matter of seconds," Hudson said. "They are going from there based on the flip-charts they have in front of them. You could get a call from a guy complaining of a stomach problem, go on a leisurely ride to his house and find him dead from aortic aneurism before you arrive."
When any medical call comes in, Hudson said, help should be dispatched immediately before an operator begins collecting additional information from the caller. He said delays in dispatch mean delays in patient care, delays that may end in greater injury or death. Hudson said he is frustrated by the lack of response to his repeated requests for reports with additional information and documentation that the implemented change went through the proper process.
"The policy and procedure change are still in effect, though there is nothing in writing," Hudson said. "The Public Safety Communicator Procedure Manual dictates how changes are to be made in the 911 center. Proposed changes are supposed to go to the Radio Advisory Committee, then to [the criminal justice committee] then the full Board of Supervisors. On the last page, you will see the chain of command as to how a program goes into effect. The group at the top of the page is this committee here, and it is my belief that this procedure should not have been implemented until it has met all the procedural steps then been to this committee for finalization because you're the top of the food chain."