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New York state issued a blanket do-not-resuscitate directive last week instructing first-responders not to try to revive patients without a pulse amid increased call volumes and lack of resources during the coronavirus public health crisis, according to a report.
Paramedics were previously told to attempt to resuscitate a patient found in cardiac arrest for up to 20 minutes, the New York Post reported.
The new order 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 memo issued last week by the state Department of Health.
The memo insisted similar guidelines have been issued “in many areas of the U.S. as well as other locations throughout the world.”
“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 spokesperson said in a statement.
This comes after the Regional Emergency Medical Services Council of New York, which oversees the city’s ambulance service, instructed paramedics last month not to bring patients whose hearts could not be restarted at the scene into hospitals already overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. That directive meant first responders could still try to revive patients at the scene for up to 20 minutes.
“They’re not giving people a second chance to live anymore,’’ Oren Barzilay, the president of Local 2507, Uniformed EMT’s, Paramedics & Fire Inspectors Union, told the Post. “Our job is to bring patients back to life. This guideline takes that away from us.”
Only about three or four out of every 100 patients found at the scene without a pulse can be revived at hospitals through CPR, or other aggressive measures, such as drugs or hospitalization, an unidentified veteran FDNY paramedic told the newspaper.
New York state recorded at least 258,589 confirmed coronavirus cases, with at least 19,118 deaths by Wednesday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University.
As hospitals across the country face shortages of personal protective equipment due to surges of coronavirus patients, health care professionals were reportedly privately discussing the option of issues a blanket do-not-resuscitate order for infected patients, the Washington Post reported last month.
If hospitalized patients infected with the virus begin to go into cardiac arrest, doctors and nurses must first dress in full personal protective equipment before beginning CPR, meaning some patients might die in the interim. Some doctors issue do-not-resuscitate orders for COVID-19 patients on a case to case basis without families signing off but blanket measures for all patients infected with the virus were considered too draconian by ethics professionals in the medical community.
Fox News’ Brie Stimson contributed to this report.