City’s EMS rescinds resuscitation ban for cardiac patients as coronavirus cases drop

A New York City Fire Department Emergency Medical Technician wearing personal protective equipment assists a woman who was having difficulty breathing.
REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

A previous instruction for the Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) not to transport cardiac arrest patients to hospitals overflowing with COVID-19 if they can’t be resuscitated in the field was revoked on Friday, April 24, following public and worker outrage.

The Regional Emergency Medical Services Council of New York issued guidelines for first responders on March 31 instructing them not to take patients to hospitals if they cannot find or restart a pulse while administering CPR for 20 minutes, 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 emergency responders, paramedics, and fire inspectors, said the Fire Department never adopted the state’s mandate.

While he understands the need to protect EMS workers, he said the order 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 one percent chance. That’s why I became a paramedic.”

Greco, who’s been in the business for 13 years, said that the COVID-19 outbreak has posed new challenges for EMT workers and a dramatic uptick in calls like he’s never seen. Five Local 2507 paramedics and EMT workers who have died from the virus, he said. 

On April 23, FDNY EMS Chief Lillian Bonsignore sent a letter announcing the rescinded protocols, and implied that the department is preparing to go back to pre-COVID-19 operations.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,” read the letter, which was obtained by QNS.

Greco said that he’s for preparing for operations to go back to normal “in a cautious manner,” and hopes paramedics won’t have to continue making decisions that they never had to before.

He also mentioned more first responders 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 added even the call volume — which reached a record high of 6,500 a day, the most calls ever in FDNYs history — is down.

However, while the city reported a drop in the number of 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.”

This story first appeared on qns.com.