National EMS paramedics refuse to wear masks when asked by patient

National EMS paramedics responded to a 911 call earlier this month without wearing masks and refused to wear them when asked by a patient, apparently in violation of company policy.

This happened on June 16 when Board of Elections member Willa Fambrough tripped and fell on ACC property while on official business. She hit her head, causing bruises bad enough that Assistant Manager Deborah Lonon decided to call 911 for an ambulance, which arrived promptly. 

When two paramedics exited the ambulance to examine Fambrough, Board of Elections Chairman Jesse Evans noticed that they weren’t wearing masks. He questioned them about it.

According to Evans they responded, “We’re medical professionals and we know what we’re doing.”

Fambrough, still recovering from the fall, now began to speak up. “I know I look young and beautiful but I’m actually 71 years old,” she said, indicating that she belonged to a group with higher risk for COVID-19. She then repeated the request that the paramedics wear masks. 

Everyone at the Board of Elections meeting was wearing masks, as they had all day, according to Fambrough. The mayor and commission has requested that everyone wear masks in public to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Yet, the National EMS paramedics continued to refuse, saying that the commission mask-wearing resolution wasn’t binding on them. “We’re a private company and we don’t have to do that,” one of the paramedics said, according to Evans.

“I was flabbergasted. I just couldn’t believe it,” Fambrough exclaimed. “How many people had they been dealing with all day long without a mask on?”

Fambrough refused to allow the paramedics to examine her without a mask, so they had no choice but to leave.

The job of paramedics and EMTs requires them to interact with medically-fragile patients in and out of the hospital all day. They may ignore requests from the local government, but what about CDC guidelines or even their own company’s policy?

CDC guidelines indicate that “EMS units should have an adequate supply of PPE.” 

The paramedics confirmed that they did have masks in the ambulance, while maintaining that they were not required to wear them, according to Evans. While the CDC does not have specific guidelines requiring masks to be worn in all EMS-patient encounters (their guidelines are only for patients with COVID-like symptoms), they do recommend wearing masks in public settings, especially when social-distancing is difficult.

Later, Evans called to complain about the interaction he and Fambrough had with the two paramedics. He was told by National EMS that they do have a policy requiring employees to wear masks in public. 

APN attempted to confirm the existence of the policy and to ask about the consequences for violating it, but National EMS did not respond.

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