Medical director selection key to community safety

Published 10:17am Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A strong network of volunteer medical responders is vital to the health and safety of any community. In Polk County we are especially lucky to have highly dedicated and educated volunteers willing to sacrifice their time to ensure there is someone available when a resident has a medical emergency.

Maintaining such as system requires a dedicated medical director and right now Polk County commissioners are searching for a new one.

Dr. Allison Owens has committed more than a decade to the task of writing protocols, being on call 24 hours a day to provide medical direction and overseeing training, among other duties.

Commissioner chair Michael Gage said he’s sure Dr. Owens has done the best she can, yet the commission is apparently not satisfied. Despite the improvements Dr. Owens said have been made to the system over the last decade, commissioners feel a lack of respect for volunteers and from some volunteers has put the county at risk. Along the way, some volunteers’ frustrations with the way in which training is handled in the system have caused them to go as far as discontinuing their service, according to Gage.

It appears personality conflicts and past frustrations that should have been put to rest continue to linger and impede the system’s ability to function smoothly.

This is a shame.

Finding a new director will not be a simple task. Gage said the commissioners believe there are individuals who would step in should the situation require a temporary solution. Dr. Owens however has committed years to providing the county with the most qualified responders possible and we’re grateful for that service.

N.C. General Statute Rules 13p.0201 offers the EMS system requirements and states that county governments shall establish EMS systems, as well as appoint an EMS system medical director.

According to the standards set up by the North Carolina Office of EMS, such a person must hold the following qualifications:

• Hold a current license to practice medicine or osteopathy in North Carolina.

• Have endorsement and working relationship with physician community, in particular medical staff and/or emergency physicians group.

• Preferably hold board certification in emergency medicine.

• Maintain an active clinical practice.

• Have education or experience in out-of-hospital emergency care

• Maintain appropriate medical liability coverage

• Provide onsite medical direction during ride alongs with EMS eight hours per year.

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