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New Pennsylvania Law Upgrades EMS, Governor Says

The bill signed by Gov. Edward Rendell on Aug. 18 requires all EMS agencies to have a medical director and ambulance drivers and attendants to be certified.

A bill signed into law Aug. 18 by Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell will raise the quality of emergency medical services statewide, he said, and continues an effort to make the EMS system more efficient. Senate Bill 240 updates Pennsylvania's existing Emergency Medical Services Act, which was enacted in 1985, requiring all EMS agencies to have a medical director and ambulance drivers and attendants to be certified.

"Pennsylvania’s EMS system responds to a dispatch every 18 seconds, so it is essential that the system work efficiently and effectively. On top of that, the number of certified providers, operating ambulances, and patients seen has increased on a yearly basis over the past decade," Rendell said. "State government is committed to addressing the challenges that our dedicated EMS practitioners and first responders face every day, because doing so improves public safety."

The state government considers nearly 3,500 air and ground ambulances, hospitals, medical command centers, EMS education institutes, poison centers, certified trauma centers, and injury prevention and public education programs to be vital components of its EMS system. About 5,000 first responders, 35,000 emergency medical technicians, 11,500 paramedics, 1,600 nurses, and 1,700 physicians can take advantage of new, high-tech educational opportunities, and statewide BLS and ALS treatment protocols have been implemented in recent years.

To develop the bill, the state's Department of Health sought public input at more than 50 town hall meetings and consulted with private-sector organizations and other states agencies. The 2008 annual report on EMS services in Pennsylvania that was prepared by the department's Bureau of Emergency Medical Services says the bureau distributed about $13.3 million in financial support to the EMS system in 2007-2008.

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