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Center for Public Health and Law Policy

Emergency Medical Services and Medical Surge: Essential Legal Issues (2015)


In 2013, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Healthcare Preparedness Activity (HPA) in collaboration with the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU)/Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) created a forum to discuss expanded EMS roles during a medical surge event.

Following this meeting, ORAU and CDC instituted a two-part project including key legal inserts to the EMS Framework Report, as well as a legal analysis of potential issues that may impact EMS providers in the event of a medical surge during emergencies.

PHLP colleagues analyzed the statutes, regulations, and case law of 20 key states to guide relevant laws and policies regulating EMS providers during PHEs and surge events. Their report examines the steps that various jurisdictions and entities can take for pre-surge planning and preparedness, and the shifting levels of authority based on an emergency declaration.

After identifying potential legal challenges concerning adequate EMS personnel to address response needs, liability risks and protections for EMS providers in a public health emergency are assessed. Other legal and practical issues are explored as well, including access to additional health care supplies, allocation of critical resources, and reimbursement. For more information, see the final report, Emergency Medical Services & Medical Surge: Essential Legal Issues (2015).