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For Release: May 8, 2008
Contact: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Emergency Medical Services Week to Focus on Access Problems
EMS Day at the State Capitol is May 21

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Week, May 18- 24, will be recognized at a ceremony on Wednesday, May 21, at 11a.m. on the south steps of the State Capitol. Cabinet Secretary of Health and Commissioner of Health Dr. Michael Crutcher will speak at the ceremony and recognize the efforts of the Governor’s EMS Task Force and the sacrifice made by emergency medical technicians (EMTs) that have been injured or died in the line of duty.

Every EMS provider in Oklahoma is invited to send at least one uniformed representative to the ceremony to participate in events which will include a color guard, an EMS helicopter fly-by, awards and speaker.

“Access to quality emergency care is essential to improve the survival and recovery of those who experience sudden illness or injury. We salute the Oklahoma EMS system which consists of emergency physicians, nurses, EMTs, paramedics, dispatchers, firefighters, educators, administrators and others,” said Dr. Crutcher. 

“EMS services are as important as fire and police protection for the public safety of Oklahoma citizens. EMTs work tirelessly across the state making more than 300,000 runs a year, receiving little pay and recognition for their life-saving efforts,” said Greg Reid, chair of the Governor’s EMS Readiness Task Force.

The Oklahoma State Board of Health issued a resolution in February 2008 identifying the collapse of rural ambulance service in Oklahoma as a public health crisis, noting the loss of reimbursement, increasing demand for services, and decreasing resources available to EMS providers.

In addition, Gov. Brad Henry included a request for EMS development funding in his State of the State address and included $2.3 million in funding for that purpose, based on the findings of the Governor’s EMS Readiness Task Force Report.  

The task force report was released in February 2007 and called for the establishment of a development fund to help the EMS system sustain itself. It also recommended recruitment and retention incentives such as tuition reimbursement for EMT training and the same line-of-duty death and tax benefits provided to police and firefighters. Pending legislation to address the problem includes HB 1615, SB 531 and HJR 1014. Gov. Brad Henry will sign HB 2693, which created a death benefit for EMTs killed in the line of duty, into law on May 19 at a ceremony at the State Capitol.

For more information about activities planned during EMS Week, May 18-24, contact OSDH EMS Director Shawn Rogers at (405) 271-4027, or contact your local EMS agency.

 

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