Most of the Coeur d’Alene Fire Department’s emergency medical technicians aren’t properly certified by the state to perform medical procedures.
City officials said Monday they accidentally let the certification lapse in June.
That means 911 dispatchers won’t call the department out on serious medical emergencies until the workers’ certifications are reinstated.
That could take a month or more.
Kootenai County’s emergency services coordinator said the loss shouldn’t affect emergency care.
Ambulance units can respond in place of fire department medical workers.
“There likely will arise some things where their (the fire department’s) help could have been used,” said coordinator Tom Teater. However, their absence shouldn’t be “mission-critical.”
Still, Teater said, the county viewed the situation “as a very serious matter.”
“A noncertified EMT who performs EMT skills without that certification technically would be practicing medicine without a license,” he said. “That, I understand, in Idaho, is a felony.”
EMTs are certified by the state Bureau of Emergency Medical Services. That certification expires every two to three years, and EMTs must take a test to be reinstated.
Of the 21 city technicians and firefighters qualified to perform such emergency procedures as giving oxygen or administering a heart defibrillator, fewer than five remain properly certified.
“It was a paperwork oversight,” said Mayor Al Hassell. “We’re not sure whose.”
Interim Fire Chief Richard Kirsch couldn’t explain the mix-up and referred questions to city attorneys.
City Administrator Ken Thompson said a fire official had held off on applying for recertification because a county worker told him new rules would take effect soon.
“We understood back in June that there could be some additional requirements,” Thompson said. “They could see there were some changes coming and they wanted to wait and see what those procedures were.”
Then the fire official left on sick leave and the county worker left the county, Thompson said, and it never got resolved.
“It’s one of those unfortunate things that shouldn’t have happened, but it has,” he said.
Teater said he wasn’t aware of any new rules since last summer.
Regardless, Thompson downplayed the whole episode Monday.
He said his workers would be “happy to continue to respond as always.”
“Our feeling over here is that it doesn’t change anything; having the (certification) card doesn’t change it at all,” he said. “I don’t know that a few days, a few weeks, or a few months makes all that much difference when you have people who’ve been at it for a few years.”
He said his fire personnel remain among the most qualified medical care-givers available.
He also said city attorneys didn’t believe lack of a renewed certification was reason enough to ground his crew.
“Is it a license or is it a certification?” Thompson asked. “I kind of get the feeling here that the people quoting (the law) aren’t attorneys.”
City firefighters are working with the state to have their certification returned, but the process is time consuming.
They must go through exhaustive criminal background checks and take an emergency medical services test.
That test will be administered Aug. 22 and 23.
In the meantime, county dispatchers still will call the department out to fires and automobile accidents. Fire department EMTs also will be allowed to assist in medical procedures that require only a lay person’s knowledge, Teater said.