Video: FDNY EMT asks Congress for hazard pay, PPE

During a video testimony to the U.S. House's coronavirus committee, FDNY EMT Diana Wilson said the government had failed first responders


By Laura French

WASHINGTON — An FDNY EMT testified to Congress on Thursday, requesting hazard pay and PPE and saying the government has failed to prepare first responders for a pandemic on the scale of COVID-19. 

FDNY EMT Diana Wilson, who has worked with the department for 17 years, told members of the House of Representative's new coronavirus committee over video conference that first responders were "grossly unprepared" to face the "invisible enemy" of COVID-19. 

"We trained for Ebola. We've trained for active shooting scenarios. We failed on a plan on training for this pandemic on any scale," Wilson testified. "There were other countries who had strategies to respond to this type of scenario and we were grossly unprepared." 

Wilson described EMS providers working mandated 16-hour shifts, being "mentally and physically exhausted" and worrying about contracting the virus or spreading it to their loved ones. She said providers are responding to six to 10 cardiac arrest within an eight-hour period and finding patients dead in their homes or vehicles. Wilson added that she has been separated from her children for 10 weeks to protect them from the virus. 

"Responding first to this virus, when does EMS get the PPE we need to protect ourselves and save lives? When does EMS get the pay they deserve for being first medical responders and when and how would hazard pay reach us?" Wilson said. "The government failed us by not protecting first responders by providing us with a plan and PPE. We are haunted by our choices and the patients we could not save."

Wilson concluded her testimony by asking House members to pledge to support EMTs and paramedics and provide them with PPE, adequate pay and "the financial backing they require to not only save lives, but to also live them." 

Watch Wilson's full testimony below:

 

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