New York state health officials just issued a drastic guideline to emergency-service workers amid the coronavirus pandemic: Do not resuscitate patients without a pulse.
A previous guideline limited paramedics to 20 minutes of attempting to revive those in cardiac arrest, but the New York Post reported health officials said this update is "necessary during the COVID-19 response to protect the health and safety of EMS providers by limiting their exposure, conserve resources, and ensure optimal use of equipment to save the greatest number of lives," according to a state Health Department memo.
"Now you don't get 20 minutes of CPR if you have no rhythm," a veteran FDNY Emergency Medical Services worker told the Post. "They simply let you die."
The Regional Emergency Services Council of New York had already restricted cardiac-arrest patients whose hearts cannot be restarted should no longer be sent to the hospital for life-saving care.
"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," a Health Department representative told the Post in a statement.
The moves are intended to reserve valuable ICU beds for serious and critical COVID-19 patients, according to the report.
"They're not giving people a second chance to live anymore," Oren Barzilay, president of Local 2507, a union that represents emergency medical technicians, paramedics, fire inspectors and dispatchers, told the Post.
"Our job is to bring patients back to life. This guideline takes that away from us."
The report does cite the long odds for resuscitating patients with no pulse. Only about 3% or 4% – "a small percentage" out of 100, a paramedic said – are brought back to life through CPR or other aggressive intervention, including drugs or hospitalization.
But "for those 3 or 4 people, it's a big deal," the paramedic told the Post.
The FDNY issued a statement they will still attempt revivals at the scene, stating: "the NYC 911 system will continue to maintain a higher level of care."
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