In defense of EMS advocacy
By Art Hsieh
Editor's note: A news report out of Tulsa, Okla., highlights how the local system spent almost half a million dollars on EMS lobbying efforts in 2009, some of that on first-class travel and expensive hotel rooms. Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh says that EMS advocacy takes money and time, and the bottom line is that it doesn't happen enough.
Advocacy takes resources. As a past president of a national EMS association I traveled nearly every month to "fly the flag" and advocate for EMS education issues. The time and money it takes to support efforts such as these are significant. I was fortunate in that I worked for organizations that supported my activities during my tenure; not all associations can completely support the efforts of its individuals in making progress.
Travel for this type of work is not glamorous. In between the meals and the hotel stays are the long hours spent in meetings, hammering out viewpoints and creating consensus-based agreements. Add in the countless phone calls, conference calls and emails when not at the meeting and you can see how the hours add up.
Knowing the politics that are involved at EMSA, this report seems a little bit like a hit piece. For example, doing a quick search for a hotel room in downtown Washing, D.C., shows room rates that begin in the mid-200's dollars per night. And that doesn't include taxes and fees. A dinner at a so-so restaurant will cost about 50 dollars. Parking, rental, taxi, airfare – it all adds up.
Don't get me wrong – I'm not defending the practices outlined in this article – but I'm not criticizing them either. If the proper checks, balances and documentation are in place, it will become more clear whether any "blame" needs to be assessed. It would be interesting to know if the national association provides any funding for the work of its president.
In the end, though, advocacy efforts like this take resources. For EMS, these efforts don't happen enough, especially compared to our brothers and sisters in fire and law enforcement. We as EMS providers will have to do more to make our voices heard.