- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 3, 2016

A panel that is supposed to advise D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on emergency medical services policy says it can’t get any information from the mayor or the fire department in order to make recommendations.

“We have got to have the transparency that she says she’s all about,” Anne Renshaw, vice chair of the Emergency Medical Services Advisory Committee (EMSAC), said at a meeting Thursday. “We’ve not gotten an answer to one question. Not one. It’s disheartening.”

The committee’s complaint echoes that of Dr. Jullette Saussy, who resigned as the fire department’s EMS medical directoWasr in February saying she was not given access to key data to assess medics’ performance during her seven months in the post.

Complaints about the District’s long-troubled EMS operations are mounting as the fire department has initiated a third-party ambulance service, Gregory Dean approaches his first anniversary as D.C. fire chief, and Ms. Bowser has touted her administration’s transparency in an accountability report.

First created in the late 1970s, EMSAC is made up of community leaders, doctors and representatives from the city government, and reports directly to the mayor.

Ms. Renshaw said the committee can’t do its job without information it repeatedly has requested from the fire department and the mayor’s office.

“By EMSAC doing its due diligence, we can help the mayor,” said Ms. Renshaw, who has called for better emergency medical services throughout the tenures of eight fire chiefs and 10 medical directors.

The fire department’s “EMS plan has too long been requested by concerned groups, in order to advise decision makers, such as the council and the mayor, on such EMS matters as FEMS budget allocations, training competencies, status of ambulance usage and the efficacy of paramedic engine companies,” she told the D.C. Council’s Judiciary Committee on Feb. 17.

On Thursday, she said she never received the plan and EMSAC was not asked to provide input on EMS reforms.

“All I have to do is look back at my testimony to find all the questions I don’t have answers to,” Ms. Renshaw said at Thursday’s meeting.

Representatives from the fire department and the mayor’s office did not attend the meeting.

Timothy Wilson, spokesman for the D.C. fire department, said that while EMSAC provides a necessary and valuable service, “there are instances when information cannot be divulged until the Department works through its planning process and has approval to move forward publicly.”

He said the department is “extremely committed to EMS reform” and will be “sharing our goals, strategies and appropriate information with the committee.”

EMSAC also was in the dark on the fire department’s plan to hire a third-party ambulance service so that the city’s medics could be removed from the streets for training.

“While the third-party ambulance initiative now seems to be a done deal, there are still unanswered questions regarding this very expensive EMS reform about which the public, EMSAC and even [fire department] personnel have only cursory information,” Ms. Renshaw said.

EMS union leaders said they, too, haven’t been able to get the information they need to inform their members.

Darlene Nelson, vice president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 3721, which represents EMS workers in the District, suggested the fire department employ people, possibly college students, to sift through the raw data and make it available to the public.

Ms. Nelson also said someone should be monitoring 911 calls from the time of dispatch to the end of service to see how calls routed to third-party ambulances are handled. She said that kind of data could help the fire department determine if minor calls taken on by the private ambulances turn into more serious cases.

Under the third-party ambulance plan, EMS personnel would arrive on the scene of every 911 medical emergency call and assess the severity of the situation. In minor cases, the third-party ambulance would be called to transport the patient. More serious cases would be taken on by EMS personnel.

• Ryan M. McDermott can be reached at rmcdermott@washingtontimes.com.

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