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Major changes announced to Denver's emergency response system

Under new proposed agreement, firefighters will now be able to administer advanced care
Denver health presser 1.jpg
Denver health presser 2.jpg
Posted at 5:57 PM, Nov 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-15 20:14:19-05

A proposed new agreement between the City of Denver and Denver Health Hospital Authority will reconfigure medical care for both Denver and the Denver Fire Department.

The operating agreement includes 35 changes designed to improve accountability, transparency and patient care throughout the city.

“This is a big deal,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said.

The biggest change will allow Denver firefighters to administer advanced medical care on emergency calls. A second medical director will also be hired to oversee and help train firefighters.

The new agreement needs final approval from Denver City Council.

“We have a goal to improve response times, no matter who is responding,” new Denver Health CEO Donna Lynne said. She started her role roughly eight weeks ago, replacing former CEO Robin Wittenstein.

During the past year, Denver7 Investigates has reported on culture issues inside Denver Health’s paramedic division and concerns from Denver firefighters over wait times and policies that prevented them from providing advanced care on scene.

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Prior to Tuesday’s press conference, Hancock and city leaders acknowledged some of these issues and stressed a need for change.

Now, rather than one medical director to oversee Denver Health paramedics, a second will be hired to support Denver firefighters and the Department of Safety’s emergency medical response services.

The new director will train firefighters to provide basic and advanced life support services, but Denver Health paramedics will continue to be the lead paramedics on scene.

“I hope and pray it’s successful because ultimately, it will save lives,” Hancock said. “I think it’s a partnership that ultimately will benefit the people of Denver.”

Prior to this partnership, Denver7 Investigates heard from multiple firefighters who said they had to wait for ambulances to arrive for critical patients to need care. They said all they could do was link arms and form a “circle of hope.”

This new agreement means that firefighters will have the training to help save lives if they are waiting on an ambulance.

Sources tell Denver7 Investigates that the changes will be implemented in a multi-phase effort over the next year. However, some of the changes are already in place, including firefighters now being allowed to administer IVs.

“I do think it takes some of the noise that, quite frankly, I’ve observed in the system,” Lynne said. “These are designed to create a unified system under medical direction.”