Montana Senate advances bill allowing preventive health care by paramedics

(UM Legislative News Service) The Montana Senate voted unanimously Monday to advance a bill that would allow EMTs and paramedics to offer community health care in non-emergency situations.

Bob Drake, Tri-Lakes Volunteer Fire Department fire chief, supported Senate Bill 38 during its public hearing in January. He said his volunteer-only department often responds to emergency calls that drain resources and wouldn’t happen if they were able to offer care beforehand.

“We don’t have the ability to be proactive. We’re always being reactive, and reactive costs way more money. And it costs us in volunteer hours that we just don’t have,” he said.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Margie MacDonald, D-Billings, said EMTs and paramedics in remote communities with far-flung hospitals could offer expanded medical services if they weren’t restricted to responding to emergency calls.

“Particularly in rural areas, we can get some services to people and keep them out of the emergency room. Right now, this group of folks is prohibited from doing anything except moving someone from an emergency to the emergency room.,” MacDonald said.

The bill will face another vote in the Senate before it moves to the House.

Tim Pierce is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Greater Montana Foundation and the Montana Newspaper Association.