Senator Collins’ Bill Would Improve Federal Support for Local Emergency Medical Services

WASHINGTON, DC—Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME), together with Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), introduced the Emergency Medical Services Support Act of 2004 (S. 2351), legislation that would improve federal efforts to support state and local emergency medical services across America.

“A comprehensive, coordinated emergency medical services system is essential to ensure quality care and prompt response to incidents ranging from automobile crashes to catastrophic weather to terrorist attack,” said Senator Collins. “The emergency medical services system is a crucial part of our health care safety net.”

Currently, more than seven federal agencies are involved in various segments of the emergency medical services (EMS) system. But their efforts are not effectively coordinated with state, tribal and regional emergency medical services and 9-1-1 systems. Senator Collins’ legislation would formally establish the new ad hoc Federal Interagency Committee on Emergency Medical Services (FICEMS) to enhance coordination among the federal agencies and maximize the best use of EMS-established funding. It also would require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security, to provide organizational and staff support.

“State and local emergency medical services systems are extremely diverse and often involve numerous different agencies and organizations. To ensure a viable, responsive emergency medical services system, federal agencies need the input and advice of their non-federal partners who help provide emergency medical services on a daily basis,” said Senator Collins.

Tom Judge, Executive Director of Lifeflight of Maine, and Jay Bradshaw, the State of Maine’s EMS Director, noted that improved coordination could help strengthen support for a wide range of emergency medical services, from rural EMS providers to communications between EMS systems. For example, decisions by the Federal Communications Commission regarding spectrum management could make the radios used by EMS and fire departments obsolete over the next few years. In making future decisions regarding spectrum management, the FCC must work with Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to help communities purchase interoperable radios if their old ones become obsolete.

“Federal agencies must work with state and local EMS providers to ensure that effective rescue capability does not disappear,” Tom Judge said. “Senator Collins’ bill would open the lines of communication from state and local agencies to their federal partners.”

Senator Collins’ legislation has the support of Maine EMS, LifeFlight of Maine, the American Ambulance Association, and the National Association of Maine EMS Directors.