LFR cuts response area over patient info

By 
Sam Klomhaus — Enterprise Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 8, 2020
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Michael Kardoes

Livingston Fire & Rescue crews have stopped responding to areas south of Emigrant, and are not accepting transfers from Gardiner or Paradise Valley ambulance services, according to a letter from Livingston City Manager Michael Kardoes to Park County Health Department Director Julie Anderson and Emergency Services Director Greg Coleman.

Kardoes wrote in his letter, sent July 1, that the changes, which went into effect Friday, were likely temporary.

At issue is a directive issued by Gov. Bullock that allows emergency responders to be notified if they come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, including the names and addresses of those who have tested positive in Park County.

“After a lot of thought and consideration, I feel like I am forced to take some precautions to protect the crews of Livingston Fire & Rescue,” Kardoes wrote. “While I understand the Health Department does not see the refusal to share authorized information under the Governor’s Directives as a safety issue for our crews, I do. In that vein, I cannot sit by and do nothing to protect my crews while I wait for the Health Department to meet with the County Commissioners, who do not have authority over this issue.”

Kardoes did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday morning.

“That puts others at risk, in my mind,” Anderson said Wednesday about Kardoes’ changes in emergency service. “Their responsibility is to provide care.”

Anderson said Wednesday the Health Department held off on providing LFR with patient information to have discussions on how to handle that issue, and Kardoes’ letter was a response to the department holding off.

Anderson said the Health Department felt those who have tested positive should have some say in whether their information is shared.

“We as a department did not feel that was appropriate without at least notifying them,” Anderson said.

“I want people to be OK sharing that information,” Anderson said. “Some people might not be.”

Part of the issue is whether or not LFR personnel should be wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) when responding to calls, and which calls they should be wearing PPE for. 

Anderson argued when LFR crews respond to any call, they should respond with PPE regardless.

“I hope to find a mutual solution to this situation as soon as possible to allow for the restoration of our normal level of service,” Kardoes wrote.

“We’re in discussions. We’re looking for a resolution,” Park County Health Officer Laurel Desnick said Wednesday.

Desnick said there wasn’t a timetable for a resolution as of Wednesday morning.

Anderson said the Health Department met with Livingston HealthCare Emergency Department Director Dr. Raymond Wright and LFR Chief Ken MacInnes, and the conversation was productive, but she wasn’t sure about a solution.

“We had a good conversation with Dr. Wright and Chief MacInnes this morning,” Desnick said.

Meanwhile, Montana reported 44 new cases of the coronavirus Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to 1,371. Park County did not report any new cases, and stands at 16 cases overall.

There are currently 589 active cases in Montana, eight of which are in Park County.

So far, there have been 117 hospitalizations attributed to the coronavirus in Montana — 22 of which are active — and 23 deaths.