A previous instruction for FDNY Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to not transport cardiac arrest patients to hospitals overflowing with COVID-19 if they can’t be resuscitated in the field has been revoked as of Friday, April 24, following public and worker outrage.
The Regional Emergency Medical Services Council of New York issued guidelines for EMS workers to not take patients to hospitals if they cannot find or restart a pulse while administering CPR for 20 minutes on March 31, according to the New York Post.
In the event a resuscitation doesn’t occur and the body is in public view, the body would be left in NYPD custody, according to the March 31 memo also obtained by CNN.
The do-not-resuscitate protocol was almost immediately met with outrage from first responders.
Michael Greco, the vice president of Local 2507, which represents more than 4,000 FDNY EMTs, paramedics and fire inspectors, said the FDNY never adopted that mandate from the New York City Regional Emergency Medical Advisory Committee (REMAC).
While he understands the logistic side of the order and the need to protect FDNY EMS workers, he said it also came with “a lot of confusion.”
“I personally didn’t agree with it,” Greco told QNS. “Even though, statistically, bringing someone back from cardiac arrest is small, I’d still rather have that 1 percent chance. That’s why I became a paramedic.”
But Greco, who’s been in the business for 13 years, said he’s never seen anything like this and it isn’t something they could’ve trained for or foreseen. He said there have been five Local 2507 paramedics and EMT workers who have passed away due to the virus.
The April 23 letter from FDNY EMS Chief Lillian Bonsignore announcing the rescinded protocols suggests the department is preparing to go back to pre-COVID-19 operations.
“As we cautiously transition to the downslope of this crisis, we will de-escalate by incrementally repealing COVID-19 Medical Affairs Directives and operational orders,” Bonsignore wrote in the letter that was obtained by QNS.
Greco said that he’s for returning to back to normal operations “in a cautious manner,” as it means EMT and paramedics won’t have to continue making decisions that they never had to before.
The VP also mentioned more FDNY EMS workers are returning from sick leave. At the pandemic’s peak, they had about 1,000 people on sick leave, but now there are less than 400.
“We remain cautiously optimistic that the trend goes down, but by no chance are we out of the woods. Now is not the time to get complacent,” Greco said, adding that social distancing measures and closures may be stopping the further spread of COVID-19.
Greco said even the call volume — which reached a record high of 6,500 a day, the most calls ever in FDNYs history, Local 2507 President Oren Barzilay told Bloomberg News on March 25 — is down.
However, while the city reported a drop in the number cases, hospitalizations and hospital admissions on April 24, New York is still in state of emergency.
“Several pre-pandemic protocols are returning as call volume has thankfully dropped considerably and is below normal averages at this time,” FDNY spokesman Frank Dwyer told QNS. “The Department is remaining cautious and vigilant.”