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Metro lifts ban on paratransit drivers calling 911

January 15, 2019 GMT

Metro has lifted a ban on paratransit drivers calling 911 in medical emergencies, and is considering replacing first aid kits on MetroAccess vans after having removed them over liability concerns.

The transit agency had required MetroAccess drivers to call its Control Center, not 911, during a medical emergency. Disability advocates criticized the policy, saying it could delay response times.

Last month, MetroAccess officials and members of the Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC) met to discuss the issue with representatives of the Control Center and of Transdev, the transportation company that subcontracts about half of the paratransit drivers.


“In a follow-up to the meeting discussion, MetroAccess management and the contractors held a review of the proposed policy, which gives MetroAccess drivers the discretion to call 911 directly if necessary,” Metro spokesman Dan Stessel told The Washington Times. “The new policy went into effect at the end of November.”

What’s more, Metro officials are reviewing an AAC suggestion to replace first aid kits on paratransit vans, which carry elderly and disabled riders, Mr. Stessel said.

The Times reported in October that Metro removed medical kits with first aid supplies from the vans in 2013 over concerns that paratransit drivers would be liable for any medical care they provide.

AAC disability advocates last month suggested that Metro could restock the first aid kits and leave it to the riders to administer first aid themselves.

“MetroAccess management agreed to look carefully at the recommendation of the AAC to have certain medical equipment on the vehicles for use by customers themselves,” Mr. Stessel said, adding that Metro is “considering the request.”

Said AAC Chairman Phil Posner: “We revisited the issue, it was picked up by the media, and everybody came to the table and came to a commonsense conclusion.”

The AAC has objected the 911 policy and the removal of first aid kits for years. Its criticisms gained traction this year after Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld praised a Metro station manager for saving a woman’s life by using CPR and defibrillator to resuscitate her. Mr. Posner pointed out that such as a rescue would be impossible on MetroAccess because of the lack of medical supplies.

Metro have cited logistical difficulties for its paratransit drivers, many of whom are subcontractors, not being trained to administer first aid.

New York City’s paratransit system, Access-A-Ride, also subcontracts some of its drivers, but a system spokesman told The Times that Access-A-Ride vehicles carry first aid kits nonetheless.


Paratransit agency representatives in Boston and Chicago said their drivers are trained in CPR and their vehicles carry first aid kits.

Metro says on its website that “many Metrobus operators are trained in CPR, the Heimlich maneuver, and other first aid procedures,” but the agency has told The Times that only station managers and rail supervisors are required to have that training.

The Times reported in October that Metro also has removed medical kits from its buses. Mr. Stessel did not clarify whether the transit agency is reconsidering restocking medical kits on its buses in addition to its paratransit vans.