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An unbalanced scenario

EMS1.com News

March 10, 2011


EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

An unbalanced scenario

By Arthur Hsieh

Editor's note: In Mass., a firefighter is being denied benefits because his injury occurred when he was working on an ambulance run, not fighting a fire. Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh asks, "What kind of message does that send?"

There's nothing like this kind of story that irritates me. It seems more than a trifle unfair and unbalanced that the action of the public safety provider would dictate how that person would be compensated after a career-ending injury.

Let's try a scenario: Substitute the lift of the patient, with the lift of a 97-pound Gleason valve from the ground. Both result in the same back injury. Following the logic of the board, one of these will receive a higher level of support and compensation from the township.

What message does that send? For a department that performs EMS duties far more frequently than other duties, how would its personnel react to such a ruling? Is there a disincentive to perform EMS duties?

I really don't buy the notion that the level of danger associated with EMS duties is any less than those involved in fire service related duties. Different, sure; less, no. Over the course of my career I know, sadly, of many colleagues who retired on medical conditions that stemmed from an EMS-related incident.

Being assaulted, falling down stairs, being involved in crashes, lifting heavy patients and equipment can all result in neck, shoulder, back and knee injuries.

And what about biological hazards? Flu, colds, hepatitis, tuberculosis? Seems like we're exposed to these in EMS environments, and any of these can cost days off from work, or complete debilitation.

Of course, there is the distinct possibility that we are hearing only one side of this story. There may be unreported factors that could be influencing the selectmen's decision making process. I think that most of us would be interested in knowing this information.

Most of us are not doing this job for the money or the glory. We are here to help. It would be helpful to know that our organizations would support us when we need the help.

About the author

EMS1 Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. Since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at an EMS service in Northern California. Contact Art at Art.Hsieh@ems1.com.
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