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Arizona bill aims to require lifesaving care in assisted living facilities

PHOENIX – A new Arizona bill looks to obligate caregivers in the state to perform lifesaving measures if a patient experiences a medical emergency while inside an assisted living facility.

Introduced by Republican State Rep. Nancy Barto, SB 1373 would require assisted living facilities and their employees to have an affirmative duty of care for their residents.

That includes basic life support, initiating immediate cardiac resuscitation before firefighters or other emergency medical services arrive – in accordance with the resident’s advance directives and do-not-resuscitate order.

While many of the near 3,000 assisted living facilities in the state market themselves as medical care providers, it’s believed some choose not to. How can that be? The law doesn’t require it.

Although caregivers in Arizona are required to be CPR certified and first-aid trained, the law does not mandate them to use it.

This bill comes after frustration and skepticism has grown over many assisted living facilities in Arizona choosing not to perform the lifesaving care and instead relying on first responders for solutions.

Steve Wagner is one of the many Arizona firefighters who respond to the 911 calls connected to this issue.

“Sometimes we are really frustrated when we arrive on the scene and we see, we know what the results are going to be based on what was or what was not done prior to our arrival,” he told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Friday.

As a paramedic firefighter, Wagner described his frustration talking about the importance of CPR.

“The brain can survive for up to about six minutes after the heart stops. If CPR is started within six minutes of cardiac arrest, the brain may survive the lack of oxygen. After about six minutes without it [CPR], however, the brain begins to die,” Wagner added.

Wagner has experienced this same issue time and time again in his 19 years on a fire truck. That’s why he created the RightCare Foundation.

The nonprofit teaches the best practices in response to cardiac arrest and advocates for time-critical pre-EMS care and community engagement to better equip organizations and individuals.

Although caregivers want to do the right thing – why is this care not being administered in the first place within some of the state’s assisted living facilities?

“It comes down to the folks that pay attention to liability, like all the lawyers – essentially saying, well in Arizona there is no affirmative duty to use the training – so don’t,” Wagner described.

According to the AZleg.gov, the bill is supported by AARP, multiple cities in Arizona and the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona.

Arizona Assisted Living Federation of America, the AZ Health Care Association and the Arizona Assisted Living Homes Association are among those who oppose SB 1373 and the duty of care.

The progress of the bill can be followed online.

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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