KEY POINTS

  • New York State Health Department issues an extreme do-not-resuscitate guideline
  • On-scene emergency workers are advised against resuscitating cardiac victims without a pulse
  • FDNY subsequently issued a letter to maintain a higher level of care to cardiac-arrest patients

New York State has issued a new and drastic guideline advising emergency services workers arriving on the scene to refrain from resuscitating cardiac patients without a pulse. The guideline was issued amid the overwhelming amount of patients suffering from COVID-19.

coronavirus outbreak related memo of NY state Health Department contain guidelines on do-not-resuscitate advice coronavirus outbreak related memo of NY state Health Department contain guidelines on do-not-resuscitate advice Photo: alanbatt - Pixabay

A Necessary Change

According to reports, paramedics were told in the past to spend about 20 minutes in reviving cardiac arrest victims. In a memo issued by the state Health Department last week, emergency services personnel were told that necessary changes would have to be made amid the coronavirus crisis.

The memo also underscored the safety and health of EMS providers by minimizing their exposure, conserving vital resources, and ensuring the optimal use of their equipment to save more lives. Sources say that state health officials believe the move is necessary to counter overwhelming problems resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Outrage Over The Move

The first responders did not take the memo well and were outraged at the move of state health officials. In an interview with The Post, Oren Barzilay, the head of the city union, angrily wondered why state officials are “…not giving people a second chance to live anymore.” Members of the city union include uniformed EMT personnel and paramedics. “Our job is to bring patients back to life. This guideline takes that away from us,” Mr. Barzilay told The Post.

New York’s Regional Emergency Services Council earlier this month issued a new guideline stating cardiac-arrest patients whose hearts cannot be restarted anymore should no longer be taken to the hospital. In the past, cardiac-arrest patients with very faint heartbeats are still taken to hospitals for more life-saving attempts.

Under the directive of the regional council, however, emergency workers can still work on cardiac-arrest patients on the scene for about 20 minutes. The new guideline issued by the state Health Department has wiped out the 20-minute effort.

A Slim Chance

The Post learned in another interview with a veteran FDNY Emergency Medical Services worker that no one gets 20 minutes of CPR if they have no rhythm. The worker is referring to cardiac-arrest victims without any heartbeat when paramedics arrive. “They simply let you die,” the veteran worker told The Post.

The worker, however, acknowledged that only around three or four out of a hundred patients without a pulse are actually brought back to life through CPR and other aggressive interventions. He said this is a small percentage and shows how slim the victim’s chances are.

FDNY Issues Own Letter

After the state announced its recommendation, the FDNY quickly published a letter Friday, advising city emergency services workers that the NYC 911 system will “maintain a higher level of care.” Sources say this means that workers should keep on trying reviving the victims on the scene.

State Health Department, on the other hand, said that the new guideline issued is also similar to what is being practiced in many locations in the US. A state Health Department representative told The Post in a statement that these changes have been based on widely agreed standards. “These changes are based on standards widely agreed upon by the physician leaders of EMS Regional Medical Control Systems across NYS and the Medical Standards Committee of the State Emergency Medical Services Advisory Council,” the state Health Department rep stated.