COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Since 2008, WIS has reported on Richland County's policy prohibiting Columbia firefighters from driving ambulances. The policy means lives can hang in the balance while EMS waits on a second vehicle for the trip to the hospital. The city and county may soon allow firefighters to drive ambulances, and that's encouraging.
But we may never know if the current policy contributed to the death of a 3-year-old boy transported by EMS, because the city refuses to release the 911 recording in that case. The city cites a state law prohibiting the release of EMS 911 recordings. Senator Harvey Peeler wrote the law, but says it was aimed at protecting patient privacy, not emergency responders. Now, an amended bill to clear up the error has passed the State Senate and is in committee in the House.
EMS workers are public servants, and their 911 calls should be public records, just like those of police and firefighters. This isn't about media witch hunts or exposing rescue workers' names, as some contend, it's about holding our public employees accountable.
When lives are on the line, I say it's a big mistake if Senator Peeler's bill dies, and a great disservice to you and I, who pay for these public services. That's my perspective. I'd like to hear from you!