Emergency medical services (EMS) workers and other first responders are at risk whenever they attend to a person in distress. Although they typically wear protective gear, they still can be exposed to bodily fluids that could spread disease. Even being in close proximity to someone with a highly contagious or infectious condition can place them at risk.
Now Ohio lawmakers are seeking to help protect EMS workers and the larger community. Late last month, legislators introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that would require notification of any EMS worker who had treated and/or transported someone during the past 30 days who is presumed to be positive for an infectious or contagious disease
Local boards of health are required to provide verbal notification to both the EMS worker and their employer. According to the proposed legislation (House Bill 563), EMS workers include firefighters and peace officers as well as rescue and emergency personnel.
In the current text of the proposed legislation, " a presumptive positive case means at least one specimen taken from a patient has tested positive for the virus, bacterium, or another microorganism that causes a contagious or infectious disease." Boards of health are required under the proposed law to determine if a person found to be contagious was "treated, handled, or transported for medical care by an emergency medical services worker in the thirty days prior to becoming aware of the presumptive positive case."
Any EMS workers who receive a notification that they could be at risk can ask to be notified of any test results of the person who's presumed to be contagious. Further, any person who's harmed because the local board of health didn't make the appropriate notification would have the right to sue that board, according to the bill.
While EMS workers and other first responders knowingly place themselves in harm's way as part of their job every day, they are entitled to basic protections where they can and should be provided. If you or a loved one has been harmed on the job, it's essential to determine all of your potential sources for compensation to help pay for medical treatment, lost wages and other expenses.