The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

August 2, 2012

Our View: Change law, cut red tape

JOPLIN, Mo. — Communication was problematic, and Alan Buchele found himself growing frustrated with a few on duty who found it difficult to break out of the medical profession’s standard mode of having everything authorized.

“We’re off the map of authorization,” he shouted at them.

That was the scene the Joplin trauma surgeon described to the Globe. He was working triage following the massive tornado on May 22, 2011.

It was a night when rules and regulations had to be broken.

It also was a night that proves to us that Missouri law should be changed to allow out-of-state doctors and nurses to treat injured people in an emergency without fear of liability,

More than a year after the devastating tornado, the Interim Commission on Disaster Preparedness, Response and Recovery met Tuesday in Joplin to hear testimony about response to Joplin’s 2011 tornado.

Keith Stammer, emergency management director for Joplin and Jasper County, and Dwight Douglas, general counsel for Freeman Health System, both said the change would cut red tape that affects medical care in a disaster or emergency, particularly in areas that are close to other state borders.

The Legislature should adopt changes to the state’s “Good Samaritan” law that would allow doctors and nurses who are licensed in other states to treat people in Missouri during an emergency with immunity from malpractice lawsuits.

There were 135 doctors from Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas who came to Joplin the night of the tornado or the day after to help. We don’t think fear of lawsuits kept any of them away.

But why ask health professionals to take those risks when a change to current law could waive required state certification for 30 or 60 days after a disaster or emergency?

It was a change discussed in the Missouri Legislature in 2012. Let’s make it happen in 2013.

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