- The Washington Times - Monday, October 15, 2018

Advocates for people with disabilities are concerned that MetroAccess vehicles carry no medical kits, a rarity among mass transit systems.

Phil Posner, chairman of Metro’s Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC), said Monday that the MetroAccess vans purchased last summer should carry first-aid supplies because riders who have disabilities hit their heads easily.

“The simplest thing if somebody hits their head getting onto the new vans, and it starts to bleed, it would be nice to have an antiseptic and a Band-Aid,” he told The Washington Times.

“People using MetroAccess are probably the most vulnerable in the system,” Mr. Posner told the Metro Board during a meeting late last month.

The transit agency removed medical kits from MetroAccess vans in 2013 while revising safety training protocols, according to a review of AAC meeting minutes by The Times.

Omar Browne, Metro’s field operations manager in 2013, told the AAC that paratransit van drivers are trained to call 911 instead of treating minor injuries.

Metro spokeswoman Sherri Ly confirmed that none of the transit agency’s vans for the elderly, disabled and sick carry first-aid kits or defibrillators.

“MetroAccess operators are trained to transport customers to and from their destinations, and are not trained in first aid, nor are they medical professionals trained to handle the complex and wide variety of medical conditions affecting our MetroAccess customers,” she said.

The transit agency says on its website: “Many Metrobus operators are traine[d] in CPR, the Heimlich Maneuver, and other first-aid procedures.” But Ms. Ly said the training is only required for station managers and rail supervisors.

During last month’s board meeting, Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld congratulated King Street Metro Station manager Dariel Alston for using CPR and a defibrillator to save the life of a woman who had overdosed.

“Understanding the potential severity of the situation, Mr. Alston immediately retrieved the first aid kit and the AED defibrillator, which is stored at each station manager’s kiosk,” Mr. Wiedefeld said.

Metro employees are trained to administer CPR and AED to assist customers who have experienced a medical emergency, and I applaud you and your quick response that helped save this customer’s life,” the general manager told Mr. Alston.

Mr. Posner pointedly told board members that Mr. Alston would not have been able to save the woman’s life if he had been driving a MetroAccess van.

Meanwhile, the paratransit system has come under fire for fudging its performance data and for six drivers accused of sexually assaulting passengers since 2010.

The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act requires Metro to provide door-to-door, paratransit service to transport people whose disabilities or illnesses make riding Metrobus or Metrorail difficult.

MetroAccess vans and drivers are subcontracted by the transportation company Transdev.

New York City’s Access-A-Ride paratransit system also contracts out its labor, which spokesman Ken Stuart said makes it difficult to train drivers in CPR. But the vehicles still carry basic first-aid kits, he said.

Paratransit vehicles in Chicago and Boston also carry first-aid kits, according to transit agency representatives. Boston paratransit drivers also are trained in CPR.

The Times examined three Metrobuses and found they did not have first-aid kits. The finding surprised two drivers who said they weren’t aware the kits had been removed. Metro confirmed Monday that its buses and trains do not carry first-aid kits.

The Federal Transit Administration has recommended that all buses carry first-aid kits, writing in an August report: “Bus operators, supervisors, and dispatchers all need to be trained. Bus operators are the first responders to an emergency on their vehicle.”

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