Polk reinstates medical responders

Published 6:10 pm Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Medical director’s last day is Feb. 15

The Polk County Board of Commissioners changed county protocols to allow medical responders to be used as first responders.

Commissioners met Feb. 4 and approved reinstating medical responders by a 4-1 vote following a lengthy discussion.

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Commissioner chair Michael Gage, vice-chair Ted Owens and commissioners Tom Pack and Keith Holbert voted in favor of the change while commissioner Ray Gasperson voted against.

Commissioner Pack said he thinks the county needs to allow more people to volunteer with no restrictions. If someone wants to start as a medical responder and move up to an EMT, they can, Pack said, or stay as a medical responder.

“Everybody has their place,” Pack said. “Are we going to say we want the best care at the hospital so we don’t want any more nurses? You can have trained personnel in the back and have somebody who wants to be a medical responder drive (the ambulance).”

Polk formerly had a higher skill set requiring EMT certification, which is above the minimum that the state allows. The change approved means the county will be going with state standards.

Commissioner Gasperson questioned why the board would be making that call rather than the new medical director.

“I just question that this board has the medical expertise to make that call,” said Gasperson. “I just don’t feel this is appropriate. I don’t want you to tie the hands of a medical director.”

Pack said the county is looking for another medical director and this will give him or her direction on what the county wants.

The board recently fired medical director Dr. Allison Owens, who agreed to stay on until Feb. 15. The county can operate under the state for another month, giving the county until March 15 to hire a new director. Allowing medical responders won’t take place until a new medical director is hired.

“That’s the reason I want this to happen now,” Pack said. “We’re about to hire a new medical director. I want to say this is what we want. Do you want to come work for us?”

Polk EMS Director Sandra Halford said by law a medical responder’s responsibility is to drive the ambulance and assist an EMT. She said it is up to the medical director what level they can participate.

Halford said there was a standard set in Polk County where at the time the way to get a medical responder title was to fail the EMT test.