Minn. bill would allow rural EMS to administer complex medications

Currently, responders can give simple medicine such as an Epipen, but only doctors can administer more complex medicine because of liability issues


Trey Mewes
The Free Press, Mankato, Minn.

ST. PAUL — Lawmakers from both parties say they're confident a bill to allow emergency personnel to administer complex medicine will get through the Minnesota Legislature this session.

The measure was introduced after a Courtland family approached lawmakers in 2016 to allow emergency responders to treat people with rare diseases. Responders can give simple medicine such as an Epipen, but only doctors can administer more complex medicine because of liability issues.

A House bill sponsored by Rep. Jeff Brand, DFL-St. Peter, cleared a health and human services committee last month. Brand's bill went through another committee Tuesday and is set to hit the House floor next week. Sens. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, and Nick Frentz, DFL-North Mankato, have already shepherded a Senate version through committee and expect the Senate to address it next month.

"Barring any unforeseen logjam, it's just a matter of when we bring it up, not a matter of if," Westrom said.

Area lawmakers tried to pass a law in 2017 to solve the problem but ran into language issues with medical industry lobbyists. They reintroduced another bill last year that garnered bipartisan support as Westrom carried the bill in the Senate after hearing concerns from one of his constituents.

Despite support from lawmakers and medical professionals, the bill was put into the $1 billion omnibus budget bill that Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed last year due to disagreements on other issues with Republicans.

Both the DFL-controlled House and GOP-controlled Senate have promised to pass bills like the paramedic proposal on their own merits this session. While it's possible the bill could be rolled into an omnibus legislative package once again, both Westrom and Brand say there's a good chance lawmakers will sign off on the bill as a standalone measure.

"We're hoping it's all (positive), just like today," Brand said.

The bill would take away liability for emergency personnel who administer complex medicine to people with rare diseases. One such is Bailey Johnson, a 9-year-old Courtland girl with a rare disorder called congenital adrenal hyperplasia. The illness means her glands lack the necessary parts to produce hormones that regulate body functions such as her metabolism and immune system.

Paramedics and emergency responders aren't legally allowed to administer the specialized medicine she requires in case she ever has a medical emergency.

While the bill initially targeted residents like Bailey with adrenal gland issues, lawmakers worked with the Emergency Medical Services Regulatory Board and the Minnesota Ambulance Association to broaden the bill's language to include others with rare diseases.

Major ambulance providers already have plans for emergency personnel to administer complex medicine, but rural providers in Greater Minnesota are still concerned about liability issues.

Regulatory board officials are required as part of the bill to make recommendations on how to implement new liability requirements to the Legislature by next year. The bill sets aside $5,000 for the board's per diem and travel expenses as they meet to discuss recommendations.

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©2019 The Free Press (Mankato, Minn.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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