Dr. Steve Tharratt, Director of the Emergency Medical Services Authority, today announced the debut of the new California Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Personnel Registry. This project is the final step in implementing legislation signed by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2008 to improve accountability and oversight of emergency medical services in California.
"EMTs provide critical services in situations where patients are incredibly vulnerable, and through this new statewide registry we can make sure these technicians are qualified and can provide the right care," said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. "With today's final step in implementing more oversight and accountability in the system, we are now able to ensure that Californians have the best EMTs available anywhere in the state and at any given moment."
Authored by Assemblymember Alberto Torrico (D-Newark), Assembly Bill 2917 required the EMS Authority to develop a single set of statewide standards forcertification and discipline for EMTs and to create a single database for all emergency medical technician (EMT) certification data. The bill also required all EMTs to be fingerprinted for state and federal criminal background checks as a condition of certification.
No matter where you live in California, you can now be assured that emergency medical technicians who respond to your call for help have been background checked and certified to the state's standards, and you can look up any EMT or paramedic online to verify their license or certification status," explained Tharratt.
Californiahas a decentralized EMS system with the State providing direction and organization but with each county administering a local EMS system including EMT certification. In addition, some public safety agencies are allowed to certify their employees as EMTs. Basic information about EMTs was spread out all over the state and packaged in 70 different ways. Some EMTs were certified through more than one agency. Some EMTs whose certification was revoked in one county for disciplinary cause were able to easily get recertified in another county because neither the revocation nor the reason for it was shared.
"We had no way to analyze the status of California's EMS system, to ensure public safety, or even to know how many EMTs we had statewide," said Tharratt.
On July 1, almost all EMT certification data from throughout the state was consolidated in the new system. Local EMS agencies and employers still certify EMTs, however instead of using their own processes they all now use the EMS Personnel Registry and certification standards.
As of now, all EMTs statewide must complete a criminal background check for certification or recertification and it must include notification to the certifying entity of any subsequent arrests. Many EMTs already meet this requirement because some counties and employers have required background checks of this nature for some time. Paramedics, the highest level of EMT, are licensed by the state and have been subject to background checks for over a decade.
"The new process enables local EMS agencies and others to share critical disciplinary information. If an EMT we certified is arrested anywhere, we will know about it," said Bruce Barton, who is the Riverside County EMS Administrator and a member of the Commission on Emergency Medical Service. "EMTs also benefit. With every county now using the same system and standards, certification in one county is valid statewide. Any employer can easily look up an EMT on the registry to verify that they are qualified to work."
The project is funded through certification and licensing fees on EMTs to pay for the database, the improved disciplinary process and management of background checks. The additional cost is $37 for recertification; $75 for initial certification or certifying through a different county or employer. EMTs also must pay for the criminal background check.
EMSA created a workgroup to ensure that the people who would perform the background checks, use the registry, and apply the new discipline process were involved in developing them. All of the new regulations were subject to public review and comment and then were reviewed and approved by the Commission on Emergency Medical Services. In addition, EMSA hosted training workshops throughout the state to ensure that system users were prepared for the July 1 start date.