On October 30, 2009, President Barack Obama signed S. 1793, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009. Once again, the bill includes a provision requiring first responders be notified in the event of an exposure to a bloodborne or airborne pathogen.
Emergency responders are protected by a number of laws and standards of care regarding occupational exposure to communicable diseases. One of those provisions was included in the emergency response provisions of the original Ryan White CARE Act that was passed by Congress in 1990 (P.L. 101-381). Part E, Subpart II, Notification of Possible Exposure to Infectious Diseases (Section 2681-2690) required emergency response employers, including fire departments, police departments and emergency medical services providers, to have a “Designated Officer” to field calls from employees regarding exposures to communicable diseases and obtain the disease status of the source patients in those exposures from the medical facility providing treatment to that patient.
This provision was included in subsequent reauthorizations of the Ryan White CARE Act until the last reauthorization that passed in 2006 (P.L. 109-415). H.R. 6143 was passed by Congress and Subpart II was removed from the legislation that was signed into law on December 20, 2006.
Concerns developed throughout the country that emergency responders would no longer be able to find out in a timely manner whether or not they had been exposed to an infectious disease and be tested and treated outside of the emergency department at a lower cost. Seeking to address those concerns, Advocates for EMS members, including the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) and the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, as well as other members of the first responder community, including the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and the National Association of Government Employees (NAGE), successfully advocated to have that provision again included in law.
Kurt Krumperman, President of Advocates for EMS, stated, “One of the key issues Advocates is concerned with is the safety and health of our nation's EMTs and paramedics. Getting the notification of first responder provisions back into law is a crucial health and safety issue and a priority for AEMS,” he says. “We sought to create the broadest coalition possible to get this issue resolved. We are very pleased on how collaboratively we worked in concert with fire service organizations, IAFC, IAFF and NVFC and EMS labor organizations to achieve this important legislative accomplishment.”
Advocates for EMS is a not-for-profit organization that is a coalition of EMS organizations dedicated to increasing awareness among decision-makers in Washington on issues affecting emergency medical service (EMS) providers. It is comprised of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT), The National Association of Emergency Medical Physicians (NAEMSP), the National Association of State EMS Officials (NASEMSO) and the National Association of EMS Educators (NAEMSE). The coalition also is supported by many other EMS associations, EMS organizations and individual EMS leaders.