UNION COUNTY — An EMT or paramedic with the Union County EMS who is also a volunteer fireman can give a victim of smoke inhalation oxygen if he’s there as both a member of EMS and the fire department, but not if he’s just there as a fireman.
During the Tuesday, July 11 meeting of Union County Council, Christan McConnell of the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control, addressed council about the problem of first responders without the proper certification and authorization to do so administering oxygen to a patient.
McConnell’s address to council grew out of an earlier meeting with Union County EMS Director Eric Harold and a subsequent presentation on the subject to the Association of Fire Chiefs.
“Christan came to us here in Union to speak about a problem they’ve been having in the state with first aid groups performing first aid beyond their scope of practice,” Harold said Monday.”It’s a statewide issue and not just in Union County.”
Those groups include volunteer fire departments and other first aid groups whose membership include EMS personnel who serve with the departments when off-duty. Harold said that if these EMS personnel administer oxygen while serving with these groups, they are doing something they are not legally allowed to do.
“Essentially, they are trying to be an EMT or paradmedic while off-duty and with these groups,” Harold said. “Christan told us that if we hear of this going on to please try and stop it.”
Harold said that McConnell said that if first responders other than on-duty EMS personnel were administering oxygen to patients they were doing so in violation of state law. He said that state law permits the administration of oxygen only by emergency responders with a Non-Dispensing Pharmacy License and under medical control. This, Harold said, is the case with the Union County EMS which has the required certification to administer oxygen to patients.
As a result of that meeting, Harold said it was determined that McConnell should make similar presentation to the Fire Chiefs Association and, after that was done, to county council.
While firefighters with EMR or EMT or paramedic training have the training to administer oxygen to a patient they do not have the license and medical control that would allow them to do so. Harold said that if EMS personnel working with a fire department or other first aid organization find themselves in a situation where oxygen needs to be administered to a patient, they can call their supervisor and ask to go back on the clock with EMS.
“They call their supervisor and ask to be put on our clock and when they do they are back under our medical control and are covered to perform such skills,” Harold. “They can do that because when they are back on the clock they are acting an agent of the EMS.”
Harold said that while it is a problem statewide, he is not aware of any formal complaints being filed with DHEC about first responders in Union County.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.