WAUSAU, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin officials have started updating the state's 15-year-old standard for ambulance inspections.
Some emergency services officials are frustrated it took this long to bring inspection codes up to date, the Wausau Daily Herald reported.
"It would be like buying a car today that has 1996 safety regulations," said Jim Austad, member of the state's Emergency Medical Services Advisory Board and a battalion chief with the Oshkosh Fire Department.
A Gannett Wisconsin Media report on the state's one-man inspection program published in February found requirements for medical equipment and ambulance vehicles were widely seen as outdated. State records showed 23 percent of the state's ambulances violated at least one state requirement from 2011 to 2012.
But state officials said existing standards have worked well despite few changes since 1999. Crashes involving ambulances are rare, averaging 15 a year.
"Just because a code is old doesn't make it bad," said Bernard Coxhead, director of the Wisconsin State Patrol's Motor Carrier Enforcement Investigation Unit. "In our case, I happen to believe we have an outstanding record on safety based on the inspection results and number of fatalities and crashes."
It's unclear what changes will be made. The standards govern everything from frequency of inspections to the number of bandages that must be kept on board.
Mark Fredrickson, operations director for Menasha-based Gold Cross Ambulance company, wants the state Department of Transportation to be less involved, especially when it comes to overseeing medical equipment. He said the Department of Health Services' EMS division, which issues ambulance licenses, should inspect medical equipment, not DOT.
"Brakes, transmission, blinkers and lights, I can see the DOT inspecting," Fredrickson said. "But when you're talking about how many bandages or checking heart monitors, it has never made sense to me why that would be checked (by the DOT)."
Currently, the state's lone inspector visits Wisconsin's 1,200 ambulances at least once every two years. Only one ambulance provider was ordered off the road during 2011 and 2012 after failing to make repairs after an inspection, according to state records.
State lawmakers asked for an update to ambulance standards in April, after discussing the issue with representatives from departments of health services, transportation and emergency services groups, said Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber, D-Appleton.
"We have to update our rules to make sure we keep up with technology and keep up our good record," she said.
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